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Full text of "Matthew Fontaine Maury, the pathfinder of the seas"

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MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

THE PATHFINDER OF THE SEAS 






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MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

THE PATHFINDER 
OF THE SEAS 



By 
CHARLES LEE LEWIS 

Associate Professor 
United States Naval Academy 



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ILLUSTRATED 



1927 

THE UNITED STATES NAVAL INSTITUTE 

ANNAPOLIS 



Copyright, 1927 

The United States Naval Institute 

Annapolis J Maryland 



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TO MY WIFE 
LOUISE QUARLES LEWIS 



Richmond, Virginia. 
October 25, 1927. 

It is eminently appropriate that a life of Com- 
modore Matthew Fontaine Maury should be 
written in the environment of Annapolis, and by 
a professor in the United States Naval Academy, 
and The Maury Memorial Association is deeply 
appreciative of this splendid tribute to the name 
and fame of one of America's greatest naval officers 
and benefactors. 

President, The Maury Association. 



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Wide World Photo 

Commander Richard Evelyx Byrd, U, S. Navy (Retired) 
Who has written the Foreword of this biography 



FOREWORD 

I believe that the most instructive form of reading is 
biography. In the story of a man's Hfe one can see in 
quick review the struggle that man went through to 
attain or to fail to attain his heart's desire. 

For the professional man, life stories of his colleagues 
and predecessors focus down to the particular problems 
of the profession. This is essentially the case with the 
story of a man like Maury. As a naval officer, Maury's 
work will always remain outstanding. He was one of 
our pioneer investigators of the geography of the sea 
and the physics of the air. And at the same time he 
never lost sight of the intrinsic needs of his Service. 

Since travel in the present age has become so common 
Maury may be looked upon as one of our great bene- 
factors. His professional work turned out to be of 
happily wide application, not only for the seafaring man, 
but for the flier. 

As an inspirational character Maury was also a note- 
worthy American. His life was marked by that per- 
sistent industry peculiar to the successful research 
worker. There is little indication that he ever saw 
ahead of him immediate reward of any great size. 
But his toil was ever directly applied for the adventure 
of discovering something new or different in the maritime 
fields in which he worked. 

Because I am soon to start on my own expedition 
towards the South Pole I am particularly interested in 
a letter Maury wrote under date of August 20, 1860, 




viii FOREWORD 

in which he said: "I have reason to believe that there is, 
about the South Pole, a comparatively mild climate. 
The unexplored regions there embrace an area equal in 
extent to about one-sixth of all the known land on the 
surface of the earth. I am quietly seeking to create in 
the minds of some an interest upon the subject, hoping 
thereby to foster a desire in right quarters for an 
Antarctic expedition." 

Richard E. Byrd 
Commander, U. S. Navy (Retired) 

September 26, 1927 



PUBLISHER'S STATEMENT 



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WOOD 
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Measured by man's calendar it has been a long stretch 
of time since he first ventured forth in crude canoes on 
the waters skirting his early habitations. 

The art of handling ships — seamanship and naviga- 
tion — began before man could read or write ; it was ships 
that first quickened his imagination and enabled him to 
measure his skill against Nature's elements and released 
him from the encirclement of small operations. 

Western Europe and its civilization saved themselves 
from being pushed into the Atlantic by the flanking 
movement afforded by ships — increased knowledge of 
navigation. 

No single individual has done more for his fellow 
man in lessening the hazards of navigation than has 
Matthew Fontaine Maury. 

For the safe navigation of aircraft the world is waiting 
today for another Maury. Aerology is in its infancy. 

No other life of this distinguished naval officer and 
scientist has been published in America and the author 
has spent the greater part of four years in its prepar- 
ation. 

To Commander Byrd the author and the publisher 
are indebted for the Foreword. 

To the Hydrographic Office, Navy Department, ap- 
preciation for assistance and advice rendered is 
expressed. 

That Maury's fame and honor may ever grow greater 
and that his life's work may be an inspiration for a 



X PUBLISHER S STATEMENT 

future Pathfinder of the Air appears a sufficient 
reason for the publication of this biography by his 
brother officers of the Navy. 

United States Naval Institute 
September 27, 1927 



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PREFACE 



This biography is based chiefly upon the Maury Pa- 
pers, comprising letters, diaries, scientific notebooks, and 
other manuscripts, which were presented to the United 
States Government in 1912 by Maury's only living child, 
Mrs. Mary Maury Werth, and other descendants, 
and then deposited in the Division of Manuscripts, 
Library of Congress. Other valuable sources are the 
letter books, numbering many volumes, in the Office of 
the Superintendent of the United States Naval Observa- 
tory in Washington, and the official papers relating to 
Maury in the Navy Department Library. Miscel- 
laneous Maury letters are to be found in the New York 
Public Library, the Public Library of the City of Boston, 
the United States Naval Academy Museum, the Peabody 
Institute Library of Baltimore, the Virginia State Li- 
brary, the Virginia Historical Society Library, and the 
Yale University Library. Mrs. C. Alphonso Smith, 
Raleigh, North Carolina, has one Maury letter and some 
fifty others, written by contemporaries in reference to the 
Maury Testimonial which was presented to him in Eng- 
land after the Civil War. Of great importance, also, are 
Maury's own voluminous writings, and the numerous 
references to him in the periodicals and newspapers of 
his time. 

For assistance in gathering material for this biography 
I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness to various mem- 
bers of the Maury family. In the first place, I wish to 
mention the "Life of Maury" by his daughter, Diana 
Fontaine Maury Corbin, which was of considerable help 



Xll PREFACE 

to me. Of his living descendants, Mrs. James Parmelee, 
a granddaughter, of Washington, D. C, and Mrs. Mat- 
thew Fontaine Maury, Jr., a daughter-in-law, of Cin- 
cinnati, Ohio gave me much assistance. Mrs. Werth of 
Richmond, Virginia, and her two daughters, Mrs. N. 
Montgomery Osborne of Norfolk, Virginia, and Mrs. 
Littleton Fitzgerald of Richmond, very patiently an- 
swered my numerous questions and furnished me inter- 
esting and very desirable information. The list of all the 
other persons who have helped me, in one way or another, 
in the writing of this book would be too long to set down 
in a preface ; but among the many I wish to single out by 
name the following: Mr. J. C. Fitzpatrick, Assistant Chief, 
Division of Manuscripts, Library of Congress; Captain 
Edwin T. Pollock, U. S. Navy, Superintendent, and 
Mr. William D. Horigan, Librarian, of the United States 
Naval Observatory; Captain Dudley W. Knox, U. S. 
Navy (Retired), Superintendent, and Miss Nannie 
Dornin Barney, Archivist, of the Naval Records and 
Library of the Navy Department; Mr. Andrew Keogh, 
Librarian, Yale University Library; Mr. H. M. Lyden- 
berg. Reference Librarian, New York Public Library; 
Mr. Charles F. D. Belden, Director of the Public Library 
of the City of Boston; Miss Helen C. Bates, Reference 
Librarian, Detroit Public Library; Dr. William G. 
Stanard, Corresponding Secretary and Librarian, Vir- 
ginia Historial Society; Mr. Edward V. Valentine, 
Acting President of the Virginia Historical Society; Dr. 
H. R. Mcllwaine, Librarian of the Virginia State Li- 
brary; R. H. Crockett, Esq., Miss Susie Gentry, and Mr. 
Park Marshall, Vice President of the Tennessee Histori- 
cal Society, — all of Franklin, Tennessee; Mr. John 



PREFACE Xlli 

Trotwood Moore, State Librarian and Archivist, and 
Mr. A. P. Foster, Assistant Librarian and Archivist, 
Tennessee State Library, Nashville; President A. B. 
Chandler, Jr., State Teachers College, Fredericksburg, 
Virginia, and Mrs. V. M. Fleming, President of the 
Kenmore Association, Fredericksburg; Mr. John W. 
Herndon, Alexandria, Virginia; Harold T. Clark, Esq., 
of Squire, Sanders and Demsey, Counsellors at Law, 
Cleveland, Ohio; William M. Robinson, Jr., Augusta, 
Georgia; Mr. Gaston Lichstenstein, Corresponding Sec- 
retary of the Matthew Fontaine Maury Association, 
Richmond; and, last but by no means least, Assistant 
Professor Richard Johnson Duval, Librarian, Mr. 
Lewis H. Bolander, Assistant Librarian, and Mr. James 
M. Saunders, Cataloguer, of the United States Naval 
Academy Library, Annapolis, Maryland. 

C. L. L. 

Annapolis, Maryland, 



"When I became old enough to 
reflect, it was the aim at which all 
my energies were directed to make 
myself a useful man. I soon found 
that occupation, for some useful 
end or other, was the true secret of 
happiness." 

(Maury to Rutson Maury, August 31, 1S40.) 

"It's the talent of industry that 
makes a man. I don't think that 
so much depends upon intellect as 
is generally supposed; but industry 
and steadiness of purpose, they are the 
things." 

{Maury to Frank Minor, July 25, 1855.) 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER 

I. His Early Years 1 

II. His Three Cruises 10 

III. He Resorts to the Pen 26 

IV. His Astronomical Work 44 

V. His Wind and Current Charts 51 

VI. His Physical Geography of the Sea 66 

VII. His Extra-professional Interests 85 

VIII. His Treatment by the ''Retiring Board" 107 

IX. Shadows of Coming Troubles 118 

X. As His Friends and Family Knew Him 

before the War 128 

XL His Part in the Civil War: In Virginia 143 

XII. His Part in the Civil War: In England 168 

XIII. With Maximilian in Mexico. 186 

XIV. Reunited with His Family in England 202 

XV. His Last Years in Virginia 220 

XVI. His Posthumous Reputation 242 



^11S2 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

Page 

The Richmond Maury Monument, by F. WilHam 

Sievers 1 

U. S. S. ''Brandywine" 9 

Lieut. M. F. Maury, U. S. Navy 26 

U. S. Naval Observatory, during Maury's Super- 

intendency 44 

Decorations Conferred upon Maury 51 

Matthew Fontaine Maury, Superintendent of the 

Observatory 66 

The Set of Silver Medals Presented to Maury by 

Pope Pius IX 84 

Gold Medals Bestowed upon Maury 85 

Portrait of Maury, in Maury Hall, U. S. Naval 

Academy 107 

The Maury Statue in Hamburg, Germany 118 

The Bust of Matthew Fontaine Maury, by E. V. 

Valentine 128 

Portrait of ]\laury and Raphael Semmes 143 

Portrait of Maury and the Reverend Doctor Trem- 

lett 143 

C. S. Cruiser "Georgia" 171 

Maury Hall, U. S. Naval Academy 186 

Maury Reunited with His Family in England, 1868. 202 
Portrait of Maury during His Last Years at Vir- 
ginia Military Institute 220 

Maury Monument in Goshen Pass 240 

Destroyer U. S. S. "Maury" 247 




Tentative Model of the Maury Monument 

Soon to be erected in Richmond, Virginia. The monument will be 28 
feet high; diameter of globe, 9 feet; height of Maury, 7 feet (l3^ life size); 
figures of group, life size. Through the efforts of the Matthew Fontaine 
Maury Association a sum of over $60,000 was raised for this beautiful memo- 
rial. Sculptor F. William Sievers. See page 251. 



CHAPTER I 
His Early Years 

No other great American has ever received so many 
honors abroad and so little recognition at home as has 
the oceanographer, Matthew Fontaine Maury. While 
his own country was but meagerly, and sometimes grudg- 
ingly, rewarding him, there was hardly a civilized foreign 
country that did not bestow upon him some mark of 
distinguished consideration. This was not merely a case 
of distance lending enchantment to the view, but rather 
one of perspective ; those near him with but few excep- 
tions had only a partial and incomplete view of the man, 
while foreigners at a distance saw the complete figure 
of the great scientist unobscured by the haze of profes- 
sional jealousy or political and sectional prejudice. But 
there is another kind of perspective, --that produced by 
the lapse of time ; hence it is that we now are enabled to 
appreciate the greatness of a man irrespective of the side 
he took in the War between the States in those ' 'unhappy 
things and battles long ago". It is this perspective of 
time that makes possible the writing of this biography 
with the confidence that the time has now come when 
throughout our entire country Maury's greatness as a 
scientist and as a man will be seen in its true proportions, 
and his fine struggle against obstacles to attain his ideals 
and accomplish his purposes will serve as an inspiration 
and a challenge to every American. 

Whatever the obstacles were that Maury had to con- 
tend with, there was no handicap in his ancestry, for 



2 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

he was distinctively well-born. Through his father, 
Richard Maury, he was descended from a very dis- 
tinguished Huguenot family which came to Virginia in 
1718. His mother, Diana Minor, was of Dutch ances- 
try, being descended from Dudas Minor, who received in 
1665 a grant of land in Virginia from King Charles H. 
The Minors intermarried with the colonial aristocracy 
of the Old Dominion, and there was accordingly added 
to the mixed Huguenot and Dutch ancestry of Matthew 
Fontaine Maury some of the best English blood in the 
colonies. Thus it was that he inherited pride of family, 
an inclination to scholarly pursuits, a deeply religious 
nature, and the character and bearing of a gentleman. 

Matthew Fontaine Maury was born, the fourth son 
in a large family of five sons and four daughters, on 
January 14, 1806, on his father's farm near Fredericks- 
burg, Virginia, and named after his paternal great- 
grandfathers. There had been many migrations from 
Spottsylvania and Albemarle counties to the free lands 
of the Old Southwest ; and when Matthew was but five 
years old, his father determined to attempt to better his 
fortunes by following his uncle, Abram Maury, who had 
already established himself on the Tennessee frontier. 
Practically no details as to the incidents that occurred on 
this long and toilsome trek have been preserved; but 
there is a tradition in the family that all the goods and 
chattels were transported in wagons, and that, when 
little Matthew grew tired of walking or cramped from 
riding in the rough, jolting wagons, he was frequently 
carried on the back of one of his sisters. Their experi- 
ences were, no doubt, similar to those of thousands of 
other early pioneers who went to the Old Southwest to 
lay the foundations of new commonwealths. 



HIS EARLY YEARS 3 

The travel-worn family established a new home near 
Franklin, Tennessee, some eighteen miles north of Nash- 
ville. This section of the country was then on the 
outskirts of the western frontier, and it was in such an 
environment that young Maury spent the most forma- 
tive years of his life. As a lad, he had to take his share 
of the burdensome work on the farm ; and it appears from 
an incident long afterwards related by his brother that 
he had the distaste for farm work, which is common to 
boys. Their father had set them to work picking cotton, 
and Matthew showed his inventiveness by devising a 
way of shortening their labor. He suggested to his 
brother that they make short work of the cotton picking 
by pulling off the cotton balls bodily and cramming them 
into an old hollow hickory stump that was full of water. 
The scheme was a good one so long as it was undiscov- 
ered, but after a time the watchful eye of their father 
detected the boys in the act and a flogging was the 
result. The lives of the children on the frontier, how- 
ever, were by no means wholly filled with toil. There 
was ample opportunity to enjoy outdoor sports in all 
seasons of the year, and indoors the Maury family were 
not without resources for passing the time pleasantly and 
profitably. There were traditions of culture and even of 
scholarship in the family, and besides it should be remem- 
bered that the homes of the early settlers were rarely 
without at least a few good books. 

Maury's father, having observed that his own father 
had been too stern with his children, treated his large 
family with considerable indulgence; yet he was strict 
as to their religious training in the home and gathered 
the children together morning and night each day to 
read the Psalter antiphonally. In this way Matthew 



4 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

became so familiar with the Psalms of David that years 
afterwards he could give a quotation and cite chapter 
and verse as though he had the Bible before him. This 
early religious influence later colored all Maury's think- 
ing and writing to a very marked degree. His mother, 
who was known as a woman of great decision of charac- 
ter, endowed her son with this same quality which is so 
essential to greatness; while her husband passed on to 
Matthew much of his amiability and ingenuousness for 
which he was greatly liked throughout the neighborhood. 

Maury received his elementary education in an "Old 
Field" school, where the seats were made of split logs 
with peg legs, where there were no blackboards and but 
few books, and where the pupils studied their lessons 
aloud. This method of study probably led to the 
custom of ''singing geography", the pupils being ranged 
round the room to chant geographical facts. Whether 
Maury was thus inducted into the mysteries of that 
science which his researches were afterwards so greatly 
to enrich is not known, for the only schoolbook that he 
makes reference to in his letters is the famous Webster's 
"Blueback Speller", which he says was the first book 
that was ever placed in his hands. 

A better education than that afforded in these country 
elementary schools was, however, destined for Maury. 
When he was in his twelfth year, a dangerous fall from a 
tree so injured his back as to cause his father to consider 
it unwise for the lad to continue to work on the farm. 
He had already shown such aptitude for study that it 
was decided to send him to Harpeth Academy, then 
located about two miles from Franklin. In this school, 
Maury had as teachers the Reverend Doctor Blackburn, 
afterwards Chaplain to Congress; James Otey, who be- 



HIS EARLY YEARS 5 

came the first Bishop of Tennessee; and William C. 
Hasbrouck, who was afterwards a distinguished lawyer 
in his native state, New York. The impression that 
Maury made upon these scholarly men was a very 
favorable and lasting one, and he retained their warm 
personal friendship as long as they lived. 

It was with Dr. Blackburn that Maury began the 
study of Latin grammar, through which he marched with 
seven league boots in only seven days; this, of course, 
was a record for the school. Though he thus showed a 
capacity for learning languages, both at this time and 
later in the navy while on foreign stations, yet the field 
of science held the greatest attraction for Maury. Flis 
ambition to become a mathematician w^as aroused in a 
curious way. ''The first man of science I ever saw in 
my infant days in the West", he said, 'Svas a shoemaker 
— old Mr. Neil. He was a mathematician; he worked 
out his problems with his awl on leather, and would send 
home his shoes with their soles covered with little x's 
and y's. The example of that man first awakened in 
my breast the young spirit of emulation ; for my earliest 
recollections of the feelings of ambition are connected 
with the aspiration to emulate that m.an in mathe- 
matics". The ambition to know and achieve early 
displayed itself in Maury, and in later life he pleasantly 
recalled to mind his ''Tennessee school days when the air 
was filled with castles". 

Such, in brief, was the life of Maury as a lad in his 
adopted state, — a state which he came to love and to 
which he referred years afterwards, when he had trav- 
eled extensively and become a famous man, as "the 
loveliest of lands" and "the finest country I have ever 
seen". Here he was nurtured with the best the frontier 



6 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

life had to ojfifer, and given independence of mind, cour- 
age, and self-reliance; love of honor and a chivalrous 
respect for woman; an unassuming modesty which 
bordered on diffidence and bashfulness; a strongly 
religious inclination; and a burning desire to know and 
to achieve. With this equipment he would doubtless 
have made a name for himself if he had remained in 
Tennessee; but Providence directed his steps into a 
broader field where he was able to gain for himself much 
greater distinction, — one that was not alone national 
but international in its scope. 

One of the well marked characteristics of Maury's 
maturity was the breadth of his intellectual vision. His 
mind loved to exercise itself with large problems, and 
questions of world-wide interest. This trait in his 
character could not have been developed so well perhaps 
in any other career as in the one he chose, — service in 
the navy of the United States. In this connection, it 
is interesting to note that Maury's father wished him to 
study medicine and promised him financial assistance 
in such an undertaking. As a physician, he doubtless 
would have reached great eminence and the science of 
medicine would almost certainly have received contribu- 
tions from his original mind; but a military career pre- 
sented greater attractions for the lad. At one time he 
considered entering West Point as a cadet, but some one 
returned from there with an unfavorable report and, 
besides, the bare mention of such a plan put his father 
in a rage ; hence he decided against the army and instead 
determined to enter the United States Navy. 

There were very good reasons for Maury's wishing to 
become a naval officer. Indeed, all his life he had had a 
close personal interest in that branch of the government 



HIS EARLY YEARS 7 

service. His eldest brother, John Minor Maury, at the 
age of thirteen, even before the family had left Virginia, 
had become a midshipman. He then had thrilling 
adventures in the South Seas, was with David Porter in 
the Essex during the bloody battle with the English at 
Valparaiso, and afterwards fought with Macdonough 
in the Battle of Lake Champlain. All this was enough 
to awaken the spirit of adventure and arouse the desire 
of emulation in the heart of a younger brother. And 
though John Maury had the misfortune, in 1824, to die 
of yellow fever on board his ship and be buried at sea off 
Norfolk, yet Matthew clung firmly to his decision in the 
face of the opposition of his family, particularly his 
father, to the entrance of a second son into so hazardous 
a profession. 

Maury secured his midshipman's warrant with com- 
parative ease, through General Sam Houston, who was at 
that time the Representative of that district in Congress. 
This appointment was gotten, however, without his 
parents' knowledge, and when it became known to his 
father he expressed his disapproval of his son's conduct 
in very strong terms and determined to leave him to his 
own resources. But young Maury was very resourceful 
and contrived to purchase for sevent^^-five dollars a gray 
mare from his cousin Abram Maury's overseer, which he 
was to sell upon reaching his destination, and then he was 
to repay the money. Still he had practically nothing for 
traveling expenses, but this obstacle was removed by his 
teacher, Mr. Hasbrouck, who gave him thirty dollars for 
assistance he had rendered in teaching the younger pupils 
in the Academy. 

On the day of his departure on that Sunday in the 
spring of 1825, Maury's father refused to tell him good- 



8 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

bye and turned his back, — it is said, not so much in anger 
as in sorrow at his leaving home. No doubt the lad's 
heart was saddened by this circumstance as well as by 
the parting from the rest of the family, especially from 
his favorite brother Richard, only two years his senior, 
who had always been his inseparable companion. But 
he put on a brave front, mounted his ''snow white 
steed", and set forth on the long lonesome ride to Vir- 
ginia, whence he was to make his way to Washington 
and there embark on his new career. 

The second or third day from home at an inn in East 
Tennessee, the young traveler fell in with two merchants. 
Read and Echols, from Huntsville, Alabama, on their 
way to Baltimore to purchase goods, and in company 
with these gentlemen he traveled as far as Fincastle, 
Virginia. Though he greatly enjoyed their company, 
he was much concerned lest they find out his financial 
condition, suspect his poverty, and humiliate him by 
offering him money. His resources were indeed sadly 
depleted on crossing over into Virginia, where his money 
had to be exchanged for coin of that state at a ruinous 
discount of twenty per cent, and when, after a journey 
of two weeks, he reached the home of his Cousin Reuben 
Maury near Charlottesville, he had but fifty cents left. 

Here a special entertainment was given in his honor, 
and Maury had his first experience with the society man- 
ners of the East which were somewhat more refined than 
those of the Tennessee frontier. When the negro ser- 
vant passed him a saucer of ice-cream and a spoon, he 
very modestly placed only a spoonful in his plate and 
left the remainder to be passed to the others, thinking 
that it was some kind of strange sauce. From this place 
he proceeded to the home of his Uncle Edward Herndon, 



p 

^ 







HIS EARLY YEARS 9 

near Fredericksburg; and while visiting there, he met 
the young girl who was some years afterwards to become 
his wife. She was Ann Hull Herndon, the eldest daugh- 
ter of Dabney Herndon, who was a banker and promi- 
nent citizen of Fredericksburg. It was a case of love at 
first sight with young Maury, who was completely cap- 
tivated by the blue eyes, auburn hair, and musical voice 
of his fair cousin ; while she in turn was very favorably 
impressed with this relative from the West with his 
ruddy complexion which she used to say after they were 
married reminded her of "David fresh from his sheep 
with his sling". 

When he arrived at his destination in Washington, 
the Secretary of the Navy allowed him fifteen cents a 
mile as mileage from Franklin, Tennessee, and this 
fairly put Maury's head above water financially. After 
a short visit with relatives here, he went on to New York 
where he had been ordered to report on board the U. S. 
Frigate Brandywine. 

Here he arrived August 13, 1825, and at once entered 
into active service in the profession which he had chosen. 
He has left no record as to what his thoughts and feelings 
were during those weeks when he, a lad from the W^est 
who had never seen a ship before, was adjusting himself 
to those new and strange surroundings. But that he 
had made up his mind to succeed in his chosen career, 
whether he liked it or not, is evident from this sentiment 
which occurs more than once in his letters: " . . .to 
the old rule with which I set out on horseback from 
Tennessee in 1825, a fresh midshipman, 'Make every- 
thing bend to your profession' ". 



CHAPTER II 
His Three Cruises 

Maury's early years in the navy afforded the lad from 
the backwoods of Tennessee wonderful experiences, and 
excellent opportunities for supplementing the desultory 
education that he had received. To a young man of his 
intellectual capacity, these voyages to foreign lands dur- 
ing the most plastic years of his life were invaluable in 
the development of a mind capable of grappling later 
with questions and problems which concerned the entire 
world. 

Luckily for the young officer, the very first ship to 
which he was attached, the Brandywine, was the vessel 
which had been chosen to convey Lafayette home to 
France after his memorable visit to the United States. 
This ship, named from Brandywine Creek, the scene of 
the battle in which Lafayette was wounded on September 
11, 1777, had been launched on June 16 of the year 1825. 
In equipping her for this special service, the officers had 
been selected so as to represent as many different states 
as possible and, where it was practicable, they were to 
be descendants of persons who had distinguished them- 
selves in the Revolution. This accounted for the large 
number of midshipmen ordered aboard her, twenty-six 
instead of the usual eight or ten for a vessel of that size. 
Maury was thus brought in touch with young officers 
from various sections of the country; and among the 
senior officers were Captain Charles Morris, who had 
made a name for himself in the War of 1812, and Lieuten- 

10 



HIS THREE CRUISES 11 

ant David Farragut, who was to become one of the very 
greatest American naval leaders. 

On the 8th of September the Brandywine set sail from 
the mouth of the Potomac, where Lafayette had been 
received on board the ship. She passed down the 
Chesapeake through a brilliant rainbow which was 
apparently supported on the Virginia and Maryland 
shores, as if Nature had reserved to herself the honor of 
erecting the last of the numerous triumphal arches that 
had been dedicated to the great Frenchman during his 
extraordinary visit. As the ship made her way to sea, 
almost the last glimpse which Lafayette had of America 
was the bluffs of the York River where he had so materi- 
ally aided the American cause at the Battle of Yorktown. 

The voyage turned out to be not a very pleasant one, 
for the ship had hardly gotten under way when she began 
to leak and for a time it was thought that she v/ould have 
to return to port. But as it was reported that the leak 
was under control, Lafayette advised the captain to con- 
tinue the voyage, and when the planks of the vessel 
swelled from immersion in the water the leak grad- 
ually diminished. The weather, however, then became 
stormy, and during most of the passage the distinguished 
passenger suffered so severely from sea-sickness and gout 
that he was unable to join the officers at dinner or to 
visit the deck. They were thus deprived, much to their 
regret, from listening as jnuch as they desired to the 
reminiscences of the great general's interesting and 
eventful life. There was another unpleasantness that 
affected the midshipmen in particular. This was caused 
by a steward who, in cleaning an officer's uniform, upset 
a bottle of turpentine, the contents of which ran into a 
barrel of sugar belonging to the midshipmen's mess. 



12 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

As a consequence, during the remainder of the voyage 
they had to eat their desserts strongly flavored with 
turpentine. 

At the close of the voyage, the midshipmen presented 
to Lafayette, as a mark of their personal friendship, a 
beautiful silver urn appropriately engraved with scenes 
of the Capitol at Washington, Lafayette's visit to the 
tomb of Washington, and the arrival of the Brandywine 
at Havre. At this French port, Lafayette disembarked, 
taking with him the flag of the American vessel as a 
souvenir of the voyage. From here Maury's ship pro- 
ceeded to Cowes where she was calked, and then sailed 
for the Mediterranean, joining Commodore John 
Rodgers' squadron at Gibraltar on the 2nd of November. 
The ship was refitted here during the winter, and the 
following spring she returned to the United States, ar- 
riving at New York in May, 1826. 

Such in brief outline was Maury's first cruise. 
Though none of his letters giving his impressions of these 
first months at sea have been preserved, yet it is not 
difficult to imagine with what eagerness and delight his 
active young mind observed the strange sights and as- 
similated the new experiences. Many years afterwards 
he wrote of how he secured a Spanish work on navigation 
in order that he might acquire a new language and a 
science at the same time. In this connection he related 
how he resorted to various artifices for study while on 
watch. "If I went below only for a moment or two," he 
wrote, "and could lay hands upon a dictionary or any 
book, I would note a sentence, or even a word, that I 
did not understand, and fix it in my memory to be re- 
flected upon when I went on deck. I used to draw 
problems in spherical trigonometry with chalk on the 



HIS THREE CRUISES 13 

shot, and put them in the racks where I could see them 
as I walked the deck. That with so much perseverance 
I should have failed in my prime object, I attribute to the 
want of books and proper teachers in the navy". It was 
this seriousness of purpose and industry that caused 
Maury soon to become well known among his shipmates 
for his scholarship, and the story is told that even on this 
first cruise a certain mathematical problem was passed 
from steerage to wardroom without solution until he 
solved it. 

After making a short visit to his home in Tennessee, 
Maury set sail on June 10, 1826 from Norfolk on the 
frigate Macedonian to which he had been ordered for 
temporary duty. This ship was bound for Rio Janeiro 
where she arrived after a passage of sixty-two days. 
After cruising in Brazilian waters for awhile, the frigate 
went on down the coast to Montevideo. At this time a 
war was raging between Brazil and Argentina over Banda 
Oriental, or Uruguay, which had been a sort of political 
football between the two countries until 1821, when it 
was partly subdued by Brazil. In 1825, however, it 
rose against this empire, and after a long struggle of three 
years it succeeded in having its independence recognized 
by the treaty of Rio Janeiro, on August 27, 1828. This 
state of affairs constituted the principal reason why 
American ships of war were sent to those waters. Thus 
was Maury brought into touch with history in the mak- 
ing, and the letters which he wrote at this time show an 
alert interest in what he was observing and display as 
well an unusual ability in recording experiences and his 
impressions of the people. 

His name was still carried on the muster and pay rolls 
of the Brandywine; but that ship did not depart for 



14 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

South American waters until the last of August, 1826, 
when she set sail from New York with the Vincennes. 
Eventually it was Maury's good fortune to be transferred 
to the latter vessel, in which he was to circumnavigate 
the globe. He first joined the Vincennes, on March 
10, 1827, in Callao Roads, the port of Lima, Peru. The 
American warships had by this time entered the Pacific 
and were cruising up and down the South American coast 
from Valparaiso, Chile to Guayaquil, Ecuador to protect 
the commerce of the United States, as this part of South 
America also was then in turmoil. 

Bolivar, after liberating the states of northern South 
America from Spanish rule, was endeavoring to organize 
Columbia, Peru, Bolivia, La Plata, and Chile into a grand 
republic, of which he aspired to be the ruler. The union 
of the first three of these states was practically realized, 
but the undertaking finally ended in failure because of 
the jealousy of Bolivar's former companions in arms and 
the fickleness of the South American people. This 
characteristic of the people is humorously set forth in 
Maury's letters in which he describes some of the fighting 
which he witnessed at Guayaquil. The young man's 
historical outlook was thus further broadened by this 
personal contact with the affairs of the great Lihertador^ 
Bolivar. 

On July 4, 1829, the war meanwhile having come to an 
end, the Vincennes, under the command of Captain 
William Compton (Bolton) Finch, set forth from Callao 
on her voyage across the Pacific. She w^as to make her 
first stop at the Washington Islands, now known as the 
Marquesas, in order, as Captain Finch's orders read, to 
secure proper treatment from the natives for any of our 
defenseless seafaring countrymen who in their lawful 



HIS THREE CRUISES 15 

pursuits were compelled by necessity to resort to the 
harbors of the islands for refreshment and supplies; to 
reclaim those who from improper motives had remained 
among the islanders; and by exhibiting the moral ad- 
vancement of America to so raise the American national 
character in their estimation as to induce a praiseworthy 
imitation of it on their part. The ship arrived at one of 
the islands, Nukahiva by name, on July 26, and in order 
to carry out the spirit of his orders Captain Finch made 
his vessel a ''tabu ship" that he might prevent the gross 
licentiousness to which ships from Christian lands were 
usually surrendered in those ports. 

For an account of Maury's experiences on this cruise 
little is to be derived from his extant letters, but fortu- 
nately Chaplain C. S. Stewart wrote a book entitled 
"A Visit to the South Seas in the U. S. Ship Vincennes 
during the years 1829 and 1830", in which he mentions 
Maury as a member of the shore party which visited the 
Valley of Taioa and as one of those who went on various 
other expeditions on the island of Nukahiva under the 
direction of the chaplain . That these were unforgettable 
experiences is evident from Stewart's rapturous de- 
scriptions of the people and the scenery of the island 
which, he declared, ''seemed almost a fairy land, scarce 
less fascinating in its features than the imaginary haunts 
pictured by the pens of genius as the abode of Calypso, 
or the happy valley of the Abyssinian prince". 

Before leaving this island Maury had an experience of 
peculiar interest. It w^as here that his brother John had 
spent two years practically cut off from civilization. 
Just before the War of 1812, he had secured a furlough 
from the navy and had gone as first ofhcer in a merchant- 
man on a voyage to China. On departing from Nuka- 



16 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

hiva, the captain of this ship left John Maury and six 
men on the island to procure sandalwood and other 
articles of commerce. They were, of course, to be taken 
off on the return from China; but the war broke out and 
the ship was blockaded in a Chinese port by the English. 
Meanwhile the Americans were left to shift for themselves 
on Nukahiva, and in a war between two tribes, one of 
which was friendly to them, all the white men were killed 
except John Maury and another man named Baker. 
Fortunately, Porter visited the island during the famous 
cruise of the Essex, and rescued the two survivors. In 
order that he might learn something about the history 
of his brother while on the island. Midshipman Maury 
set about studying the language of the natives, during 
the three weeks or so of his visit. And shortly before his 
departure he was able to converse with the old chief who 
had been his brother's friend. 'The Happas and the 
Typees", Maury wrote, "were at war. The latter 
having just captured three children from the former, 
we went to the rescue and recovered two, the third had 
been eaten. When we returned to the Happa Valley 
from the expedition — it was the valley where dwelt my 
brother — the men had liberty and the old Happa chief 
remained on board as a hostage, for his subjects were all 
a set of savages and the women literally in the fig leaf 
state. At night when all the men had come off safe and 
sound, and a few days only before we left, I was sent to 
take the old fellow ashore. Going ashore, I made myself 
known to him. He was the firm and fast friend of my 
brother. Had saved his life. He was then old. He it 
was that offered me his scepter, his own wife, and the 
daughter of a neighboring chief if I would remain". 
Needless to say, this flattering offer was rejected, and 



HIS THREE CRUISES 17 

Maury was on the Vincennes when she sailed away from 
the island. In leaving the bay, the ship narrowly es- 
caped destruction, for the vessel was at first becalmed 
and then suddenly carried by the swell toward the 
breakers. Every face was pale with fear and the silence 
of the grave hung over the ship, but a timely breath of 
air filled the topsails and finally slowly carried her out 
to the open sea. In five days she was seven hundred 
miles away at Tahiti, one of the Society Islands. Here 
Maury had the pleasure of joining several shore parties, 
and was also present at an interesting reception to the 
Queen of Tahiti on board the Vincennes, when the firing 
of the salute to the queen greatly alarmed her and caused 
her to behave in a very humorous and undignified 
manner. 

The ship then set sail, after a month's visit, for the 
Sandwich Islands. On the island of Hawaii Maury 
visited the Cascade of the Rainbow and probably saw 
also the volcano of Kilauea, about both of which Chap- 
lain Stewart goes into rhapsodies in his account of the 
voyage. Captain Finch went also to Honolulu, on the 
island of Oahu, and there presented to King Kameham- 
eha III a pair of gloves and a large map of the United 
States, and a silver vase to the regent and two silver 
goblets to the princess. A letter from the Secretary 
of the Navy was then delivered to the king. This was 
well received by his majesty, and his reply was in the 
friendliest possible tone, agreeing to treat American 
sailors with more consideration and fairness in the future. 
The purpose of the visit having thus been accomplished, 
several deserters having been reclaimed, and the settle- 
ment of claims for about $50,000 for American citizens 
having been negotiated, the ship departed for China. 



18 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

Leaving behind the northern Bashee Islands, which 
are considered one of the barriers of the Pacific as well as 
one of the portals to the Celestial Empire, the ship came 
to anchor on January 3, 1830 in the roads of Macao, a 
Portuguese city, situated on a small island about seventy 
miles from Canton. The Vincennes thus gained the 
distinction of being the second American man-of-war to 
visit Chinese waters, having been preceded only by the 
Congress in 1819. After receiving a statement from the 
American consul and merchants at Canton on the advis- 
ability of having American men-of-war make periodic 
visits to Chinese waters, Captain Finch was off again, 
this time for the Philippines. 

After a brief visit at Manila, the ship turned towards 
home, and, stopping in the Straits of Sunda and at Cape 
Town, on the first of May came in sight of the Island of 
St. Helena. Here ample time was afforded the officers 
for seeing Longwood House in which Napoleon had lived 
and also his tomb, from which the body of the great 
general had not at that time been removed to Paris. 
After leaving this island, the ship made no other stop 
until she arrived in New York on the 8th of June, 1830, 
with her band appropriately playing, ''Hail Columbia! 
Happy Land!" 

After almost four years to a day, Maury was home 
again ; but he was no longer the raw lad from the Tennes- 
see backwoods, for the information and experience which 
he had gained on this cruise of the first American man-of- 
war to circumnavigate the globe had gone a long way 
towards taking the place of a college education. Men 
of the stamp of Commodore Charles Morris, Lieutenant 
Farragut, Captain Finch, Chaplain Stewart, and dozens 
of other officers with whom he had come in contact dur- 



HIS THREE CRUISES 19 

ing his first two cruises had contributed, by example at 
least, in making him into an officer and a gentleman. 
During all this time he had studied, and read as widely 
as opportunity afforded, having had the privilege for a 
portion of the time of using the books of Midshipman 
William Irving, a nephew to Washington Irving. 

That the opportunities for instruction on shipboard 
were, however, very limited is indicated by the following 
summary of Maury's experience with the school system 
of the navy. ''The first ship I sailed in", he wrote, "had 
a schoolmaster: a young man from Connecticut. He 
was well qualified and well disposed to teach navigation, 
but not having a schoolroom, or authority to assemble 
the midshipmen, the cruise passed off without the oppor- 
tunity of organizing his school. From him, therefore, we 
learned nothing. On my next cruise, the dominie was a 
Spaniard; and, being bound to South America, there was 
a perfect mania in the steerage for the Spanish language. 
In our youthful impetuosity we bought books, and for a 
week or so pursued the study with great eagerness. But 
our spirits began to flag, and the difficulties of ser and 
estar finally laid the copestone for us over the dominie's 
vernacular. The study was exceedingly dry. We there- 
fore voted both teacher and grammar a bore, and com- 
mitting the latter to the deep, with one accord, we 
declared in favor of the Byronical method — 

* 'Tis pleasant to be taught in a strange tongue 
By female lips and eyes'; 

and continued to defer our studies till we should 
arrive in the South American vale of paradise, 
called Valparaiso. After arriving on that station, the 
commander, who had often expressed his wish that we 



20 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

should learn to speak Spanish, sent down *for all the 
young gentlemen', as the middies are called, and com- 
menced to ask us one by one — 'Can you speak Spanish?' 
'No, sir.' 'Then you are no gentleman'. 'Can you?' 
But always receiving the same answer, he sent us out of 
the cabin as a set of blackguards. As he was as ignorant 
on this subject as any of us, we included him among the 
number, and thought it an excellent joke. Thus ended 
our scholastic duties on that ship. I was afterwards 
transferred to another vessel in which the schoolmaster 
was a young lawyer, who knew more about jetsam and 
flotsam than about lunars and dead reckoning — at least, 
I presume so, for he never afforded us an opportunity 
to judge of his knowledge on the latter subjects. He 
was not on speaking terms with the reefers, ate up all 
the plums for the duff, and was finally turned out of the 
ship as a nuisance. When I went to sea again, the 
teacher was an amiable and accomplished young man, 
from the 'land of schoolmasters and leather pumpkin 
seed'. Poor fellow! — far gone in consumption, had a 
field of usefulness been open to him, he could not have 
labored in it. He went to sea for his health, but never 
returned. There was no schoolmaster in the next ship, 
and the 'young gentlemen' were as expert at lunars, and 
as au fait in the mysteries of latitude and departure, as 
any I had seen. In my next ship, the dominie was a 
young man, troubled like some of your correspondents, 
Mr. Editor, with cacoethes scrihendi. He wrote a book. 
But I never saw him teaching 'the young idea', or in- 
structing the young gentlemen in the art of plain sailing; 
nor did I think it was his fault, for he had neither school- 
room nor pupil. Such is my experience of the school 



HIS THREE CRUISES 21 

system in the navy; and I believe that of every officer 
will tally with if'.i 

Maury had the privilege of continuing his studies 
ashore in New York and Washington for several months 
before he embarked on his next cruise. He was then 
preparing himself for the examination for the rank of 
passed midshipman. This examination covered the 
following subjects: Bowditch's "Navigation"; Playfair's 
"Euclid", Books 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6; McClure's "Spherics"; 
Spanish or French; Mental and Moral Philosophy; 
Bourdon's "Algebra"; and Seamanship. The time de- 
voted to each midshipman by the examiners, in the order 
of his appointment, ranged from fifty minutes to two 
hours. To judge from the questions in seamanship, the 
examination was largely of a very practical nature, — on 
how to handle the sails of a ship and how to navigate her. 

In his examination, Maury passed twenty-seven in a 
class of forty. An explanation of this apparently low 
standing may be gathered from the following account of 
the manner of conducting such examinations: "The 
midshipman who seeks to become learned in the branches 
of science that pertain to his profession, and who before 
the Examining Board should so far stray from the lids 
of Bowditch as to get among the isodynamic and other 
lines of a magnetic chart, would be blackballed as cer- 
tainly as though he were to clubhaul a ship for the Board 
in the Hebrew tongue. . . . Midshipmen, turning to 
Bowditch, commit to memory the formula of his first or 
second method for 'finding the longitude at sea by a 
lunar observation'. Thus crammed or 'drilled', as it is 
called, they go before the Board of Examination, where, 
strange to say, there is a premium offered for such quali- 

* "Scraps from a Lucky Bag" in Southern Literary Messenger, May, 1840. 



22 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

fication. He who repeats 'by heart' the rules of Bow- 
ditch, though he does not understand the mathematical 
principles involved in one of them, obtains a higher 
number from the Board than he who, skilled in mathe- 
matics, goes to the blackboard and, drawing his dia- 
gram, can demonstrate every problem in navigation ".^ 
Maury, no doubt, wrote this out of his own personal ex- 
perience ; and even though the results of his examination 
may have indicated that in the ordinary duties of his 
profession he was not above the average, still it was to 
be in a special field of the service that his genius was to 
display itself. 

During the winter which Maury spent in Washington 
he fell completely in love with his cousin, Ann Herndon, 
who was visiting relatives in Georgetown. Hitherto 
there had been a certain safety in numbers, as indicated 
by the numerous references in his letters to the charms of 
English girls and the "piercing eyes and insinuating 
smiles" of the Brazilian and Peruvian maidens. But 
before he went to sea again he became engaged to his 
cousin, and on his departure he gave her a little seal 
which was to be used only when she wrote to him ; it bore 
the inscription of the single word Mizpah, that beautiful 
Biblical parting salutation, "The Lord watch between 
thee and me when we are absent one from the other". 

This love affair caused Maury to consider resigning 
from the naval service, but his hope of getting employ- 
ment as a surveyor did not materialize and he finally 
concluded that he supposed Uncle Sam would have the 
selling of his bones to the doctors. Accordingly, in June, 
1831 he sailed again for the Pacific, this time in the 
Falmouth. His ship touched at Rio for a brief visit, 

2 Ibid., December, 1840. 



HIS THREE CRUISES 23 

then doubled Cape Horn, and arrived at Valparaiso the 
last of October. The Falmouth remained on this station 
for about a year, and Maury renewed his former ac- 
quaintances and enjoyed the hospitality of Chilean 
society at dances and dinners without number. The 
vessel then cruised further north along the coast, visiting 
various ports and remaining several months at Callao. 

One of Maury's shipmates on this cruise has left some 
reminiscences which throw considerable light upon his 
young friend's qualities as an officer. *T encountered 
some ridicule", wrote Captain Whiting, "from my mess- 
mates for predicting that Maury would be a dis- 
tinguished man. I asserted that there was that in him 
which could not be kept down. . . . In a survey of 
San Lorenzo Island while attached to the Falmouth I 
was an assistant to Maury, and he displayed that per- 
severance and energy undismayed by difficulty when he 
had once determined upon accomplishing a result, which 
ever marked his career. In prosecuting the survey of the 
Boca del Diables he scaled rocks and crept around the 
corners of cliffs when I was almost afraid to follow him, 
but the attainment of his object seemed to be with him 
the only subject of his thoughts. He landed on the 
Labos Rocks to the westward of San Lorenzo to make 
some astronomical and trigonometrical observations 
while I remained in the boat. When he landed it was 
almost a dead calm, and the sea comparatively smooth; 
but by the time he had finished his observations a fresh 
wind had sprung up from the southwards, the tide had 
risen, and the sea was raging so as to forbid the near ap- 
proach of the boat, one minute receding from the rock so 
as to leave a yawning gulf of twenty or thirty feet depth, 
then rushing up again with appalling and irresistible 



24 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

force. Calling on me to approach as near as I dared, 
Maury ascended to the highest point of the rock, took 
off his jacket, and with a string which he found in his 
pocket tied in it his watch and sextant, and then threw 
it with all his might into the sea toward the boat, while 
the bowman of the boat stood ready to seize it with his 
boathook before the water had time to penetrate the 
wrapping. Maury then, watching the culmination of a 
wave, sprang from the rock himself and being a good 
swimmer and possessed of much youthful strength 
reached the boat in safety, but it was a fearful leap". 

The seeds of Maury's later wonderful achievements in 
the science of the sea were implanted during this cruise 
of the Falmouth. He was the sailing master of the ship, 
and naturally wished to make as quick a voyage as pos- 
sible. Before sailing he had searched diligently for 
information concerning the winds and currents and the 
best course for his ship to take, and was astonished to 
find that there was practically no information on the 
subject to be secured. The observations of these phe- 
nomena of the sea which he accordingly made on this 
voyage turned his mind toward a series of investigations 
which later was to make his name known round the 
entire world. 

Maury did not return to the United States in the 
Falmouth, but shortly before her departure from Callao 
he was transferred on August 20, 1833 to the schooner 
Dolphin, in which vessel he performed the duties of first 
lieutenant. He remained on the little schooner but a 
few weeks, and then was attached to the frigate Potomac, 
which had just arrived at Callao under the command of 
Captain John Downes. This ship had been on duty on 
the Pacific coast of South America for a little more than 



HIS THREE CRUISES 25 

a year, after having cruised almost around the world by 
way of the Cape of Good Hope, the Malay Archipelago, 
China, and the South Seas. 

In a short time, however, the Potomac sailed for home, 
arriving at Valparaiso the middle of December. Here, 
according to Captain Whiting, Maury had a very un- 
pleasant experience with a young lady named Manuela 
Poma with whom he had previously become acquainted. 
Her hand had been sought by a young officer of the 
Chilean army, who the evening before the Potomac 
sailed came on board the ship and told Maury that he 
had destroyed all his hopes of happiness. He said that 
the previous day he had made a declaration of his love to 
Manuela and that she had rejected him, telling him that 
her affections were already bestowed on the young Amer- 
ican naval officer. Instead of priding himself on this 
conquest, as many young men would have done, Maury 
was exceedingly distressed as he had considered his re- 
lationship with the young girl to have been nothing more 
than that of friendship, and by a returning ship he sent 
a long letter to Manuela. Soon after his arrival in 
Boston he learned that she had died of consumption. 

The voyage home round the Horn and by way of Rio 
was more or less uneventful, except for imminent peril 
for a time from icebergs off the Falkland Islands. After 
three years Maury was home again, and according to the 
decrees of Fate this was to be his last cruise. Hence a 
distinctive period in his life had come to a close; but his 
nine years of almost continuous sea duty had been a 
splendid preparation for the peculiar scientific work that 
he was soon to undertake. 



CHAPTER III 
He Resorts to the Pen 

When the Potomac arrived in Boston, Maury applied 
for leave of absence and went directly to Fredericksburg, 
Virginia, where he was married to Ann Herndon on July 
15, 1834. In this charming old Virginia town he es- 
tablished his residence for the next seven years, living on 
Charlotte Street in a two-story frame house with a large 
old-fashioned garden, which he rented from a Mr. 
Johnston. He had always been generous with his money 
to different members of his family, and it is related that, 
as a consequence, he had but twenty dollars of ready 
money at the time of his marriage, all of which he gave 
as a fee to Parson E. C. McGuire. In the same generous 
way he shared his home for a considerable time with his 
brother John's widow and her two sons. 

With some leisure at his command, Maury determined 
to become an author, under the encouragement of the 
recent appearance in the American Journal of Science and 
Arts of his first scientific article, "On the Navigation of 
Cape Horn". This, the first fruit of his sea experience, 
described forcefully the dangers of the passage of Cape 
Horn, and gave specific information concerning the winds 
and the peculiar rising and falling of the barometer in 
those latitudes. In the same number of this journal 
there appeared another article describing Maury's "Plan 
of an Instrument for Finding the True Lunar Distance", 
the instrument in question having been invented by him. 
With these beginnings, he ambitiously set to work to 
finish a book on navigation, which he had commenced 

26 




/ 



Courtesy oj "The Journal of American History," Vol. IV, Number 3 {1910). 

Lieut. M. F. Maury 
From a daguerreoUpe of about the year 1855 



HE RESORTS TO THE PEN 27 

during the last part of his recent tour of sea duty. He 
did not expect to receive much direct profit from such a 
nautical book, but hoped that it might be of a collateral 
advantage to him in making his name known to the Navy 
Department and to his brother officers. As it was the 
first nautical work of science ever to come from the pen 
of an American naval officer, he expected to base a claim 
for promotion on the merits of the book, and had hopes of 
being made a lieutenant of ten years' rank with the ac- 
companying back pay amounting to $4,000 or $5,000. 

These plans of Maury's did not fully materialize. 
President Jackson was of the opinion that the young 
author deserved promotion for his scientific work and 
reimbursement for the money which he had expended in 
its publication, but the Secretary of the Navy, Mahlon 
Dickerson, did not carry out the President's wishes. 
The book itself, however, was a great success on its 
appearance early in the year 1836, under the title of "A 
New Theoretical and Practical Treatise on Navigation". 
The publishers, E. C. and J. Biddle of Philadelphia, soon 
had the pleasure of printing a long list of favorable 
opinions of the work from professors and distinguished 
officers in the navy, among which the commendation of 
Nathaniel Bowditch gave Maury the greatest satisfac- 
tion. His book very quickly took the place of Bow- 
ditch's "Practical Navigator" as a textbook for junior 
officers in the navy, and when the Naval Academy was 
established at Annapolis it was used for several years as 
the basis of the instruction given to midshipmen in 
navigation. In the title page appeared the significant 
words, "Cur Non?" (Why not?), the motto adopted by 
Lafayette when he espoused the cause of the American 
colonies; this was in effect Maury's answer to any query 



28 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

that might be made as to why a young naval officer 
should attempt the writing of a book. 

Of the reviews of Maury's work, one of the most in- 
teresting appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger of 
June, 1836. It was written by Edgar Allan Poe, who 
was then editor of that magazine, and closed with the 
following paragraph: 'The spirit of literary improve- 
ment has been awakened among the officers of our gallant 
navy. We are pleased to see that science also is gaining 
votaries from its ranks. Hitherto how little have they 
improved the golden opportunities of knowledge which 
their distant voyages held forth, and how little have they 
enjoyed the rich banquet which nature spreads for them 
in every clime they visit ! But the time is coming when, 
imbued with a taste for science and a spirit of research, 
they will become ardent explorers of the regions in which 
they sojourn. Freighted with the knowledge which 
observation only can impart, and enriched with col- 
lections of objects precious to the student of nature, their 
return after the perils of a distant voyage will then be 
doubly joyful. The enthusiast in science will anxiously 
await their coming, and add his cordial welcome to the 
warm greetings of relatives and friends". Poe, perhaps, 
had no idea how soon his prophetic words were to be 
fulfilled, — and by the very man whose book he had so 
favorably reviewed. 

After making this successful entry into the field of 
authorship, Maury lectured on scientific subjects in 
Fredericksburg and set about the studying of mineralogy, 
geology, and drawing. In these studies he made such 
progress as to qualify himself to become superintendent 
of the United States Gold Mine near Fredericksburg. 
He spent the summer of 1836 with his family at this mine 



HE RESORTS TO THE PEN 29 

where he made some important improvements in its 
administration. Meanwhile, he had been promoted on 
June 10, 1836 to the rank of Heutenant, and though he 
had been offered a salary of $1200 as a mining engineer 
he decided to remain in the navy. 

Maury's interests were next directed to the Exploring 
Expedition to the South Seas. The little squadron se- 
lected to make the cruise, composed of the frigate Mace- 
donian and the brigs Pioneer and Consort, rendezvoused 
at Norfolk in the autumn of the year 1836, under the 
command of Captain Thomas Ap Catesby Jones. 
Maury made an attempt to secure the command of one 
of the smaller vessels; but he failed in this, and had to 
be content with being attached to the Macedonian, 
March 18, 1837. Secretary of the Navy Dickerson had 
not, from its inception, been in favor of the expedition, 
which he looked upon as a scheme by President Jackson 
for self-glorification. He therefore did all that he could 
to block the sailing of the squadron by causing unneces- 
sary delays, not caring for the waste of money involved 
in this procrastination. In this way the ships were kept 
at Norfolk until October when they finally sailed for 
New York. 

In September, Maury had had the good fortune to be 
appointed ''Astronomer" for the expedition with $1000 
additional pay, and also as assistant to the ''Hydro- 
grapher". Lieutenant James Glynn. To prepare himself 
for these duties he went to Philadelphia, w^here in a little 
observatory in Rittenhouse Square he soon familiarized 
himself with the use of astronomical instruments. The 
expedition, however, still delayed to set sail, and the 
vexatious interference with his command so affected 
Captain Jones's health as to give the Secretary of the 



30 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

Navy an excuse for removing him from his position. 
Matters had by this time come to such a pass that 
several officers dechned the command when it was offered 
them; namely, Captains Shubrick, Kearny, Perry, and 
Gregory. Finally, in April, 1838, a junior officer. Lieu- 
tenant Charles Wilkes, though there were eighty lieu- 
tenants above his grade, was selected, and he accepted 
the appointment. 

The sloops of war Vincennes and Peacock and two 
smaller vessels were chosen instead of those originally 
prepared, and it became necessary to reorganize the 
personnel of the expedition. Maury had sympathized 
with Captain Jones in the unjust treatment which he had 
received from the Secretary of the Navy, and besides he 
had written that Wilkes was the only officer in the navy 
with whom he would not cooperate provided that he was 
put in command of the enterprise. He therefore asked 
to be detached from the expedition. 

Maury might possibly have had the honor of com- 
manding the exploring expedition himself, as clearly 
indicated by the following letter which he wrote years 
afterwards: "The expedition had been taken away from 
the Secretary of the Navy and transferred to Poinsett, 
Secretary of War. I was ordered to fetch the instru- 
ments to Washington and report myself to Poinsett. 
He received me with open arms, took me into his bosom, 
and asked me to give him the names of the officers 
without regard to rank that / thought best qualified for 
the expedition. I afterwards had reason to suppose that 
he expected me to name myself and intended to put me 
in command of it, as really I was the most important 
personage in it — Hydrographer and Astronomer. But 
I asked myself, what right have I to draw distinctions 



HE RESORTS TO THE PEN 31 

among brother officers? So I gave him a list of the 
officers belonging to the expedition; myself, the youngest 
lieutenant in the navy, at the bottom of the list. He 
froze up with disgust, ordered Wilkes home, and gave him 
the command, and so I was the gainer, for I preserved 
mine integrity". 

Maury was next assigned to the duty of surveying 
Southern harbors, relative to the establishment of a 
navy yard in the South. In this work he assisted 
Lieutentant James Glynn, in the schooner Experiment 
and the steamboat Engineer, in the examination and 
survey of the harbors of Beaufort and Wilmington, and 
the inlets Sapelo and Doboy on the coast of Georgia. 
Early in the month of August, 1839, Maury was de- 
tached from the Engineer at Norfolk with leave for one 
month, and he set out very soon thereafter from his home 
in Fredericksburg to visit his parents in Tennessee to 
look after some business affairs for his father who had 
become old and infirm, and also to make arrangements 
for conveying them to Virginia where they were to make 
their home with him. 

Maury had written in vain, in February and again in 
August, 1839, to F. R. Hassler of the United States Coast 
Survey offering his services as head of a triangulation 
party. This was one of the several attempts he made 
at different times to find work of such a nature as to 
justify his resignation from the navy. By such small 
threads often hangs a man's destiny. If Hassler had 
accepted Maury's services, his whole future would 
probably have been different from what it became, for 
an event was soon to happen to him which, though 
apparently at first most unfortunate, was indirectly to 
place him on that flood tide which led him on to fortune. 



32 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY - 

Under orders to join the brig Consort at New York and 
continue the surveying of Southern harbors, Maury 
left his father's home in Tennessee by stage coach to 
join his ship. He went by the northern route, and near 
Somerset, Ohio, on a rainy night about one o'clock in 
the morning, an embankment gave way and the coach 
was upset. Maury, having given his seat inside to a 
woman with a baby in arms, was riding on the seat with 
the coachman, and was the only person seriously injured. 
There were twelve other passengers; Maury, the thir- 
teenth, had his right knee-joint transversely dislocated 
and the thigh-bone longitudinally fractured. 

His recovery from the injury was slow and painful. 
The leg was improperly set, and at a time when the use 
of anesthetics was unknown it had to be reset with great 
pain to the unfortunate officer. During the three 
months of his confinement at the Hotel Phoenix in 
Somerset he managed to keep up his spirits in spite of 
the suffering and loneliness, and to break the tedium of 
the dull days he commenced the study of French without 
the aid of either grammar or dictionary. At last, in 
January, 1840, he thought himself strong enough to 
proceed to New York; but it was in the midst of winter 
and he had to be driven in a sleigh over the Alleghany 
Mountains. This occasioned considerable delay, and 
when he at length arrived at his destination he found that 
his ship had already sailed. He then made his way to 
his home in Viriginia to recuperate his health and 
strength under the apprehension that his injury might 
be so serious as to incapacitate him for further active 
service in the navy. 

During the long weeks in Ohio he had been greatly 
troubled with these fears and had considered gravely 



HE RESORTS TO THE PEN 33 

what he might do in the future. He had begun then to 
think seriously of resorting to the pen, and after his re- 
turn home this notion "to take to books and be learned" 
began to take more definite shape in his mind, though 
he was greatly discouraged at his ignorance and confused 
by the wilderness of subjects from which to choose. He 
did not, however, wish to give the impression that he was 
shirking active service ; so he made application on March 
14, 1840 to Secretary of the Navy Paulding for any duty 
which he could perform in his present condition, "service 
on crutches" as he expressed it. This, of course, was 
not granted him, and thus relieved temporarily from 
active service, he began the writing of his "Scraps from 
the Lucky Bag", a series of magazine articles which were 
soon to make his name very widely known. 

In the summer of 1838, Maury had written five articles 
for the Richmond Whig and Public Advertiser under the 
nom de plume of "Harry Bluff, U. S. Navy". His feelings 
were at that time raw over the outcome of the Exploring 
Expedition, and in these fearless, straightforward articles 
he bitterly criticised the former Secretary of the Navy 
Dickerson for his inefficiency and called upon his suc- 
cessor, Secretary Paulding, to restore to the navy its 
former prestige. The appointment of Wilkes to com- 
mand the expedition was handled without gloves. 
"There was", wrote Maury, "a cunning little Jacob who 
had campaigned in Washington a full term of seven 
years. More prodigal than Laban, you (Secretary of 
War, Joel R. Poinsett) gave him, for a single term, both 
the Rachel and the Leah of his heart. A junior lieu- 
tenant with scarcely enough service at sea to make him 
familiar with the common routine of duty on board a 
man-of-war, and with one or two short interruptions, a 



34 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

sinecurist on shore for the last fifteen years, he was lifted 
over the heads of many laborious and meritorious officers, 
and placed by you in the command of the Exploring 
Expedition in violation of law". 

Maury wrote, in December of the same year, seven 
more articles for this newspaper, hiding his identity by 
inscribing them ''From Will Watch to his old messmate 
Harry Bluff". In these he went further still into details 
as to the inefficiency of the administration of the navy, 
dealing especially with the waste connected with the 
building and repairing of ships, the need for a system of 
rules and regulations in the navy, and the advisability of 
establishing a naval school. As to the latter, he wrote, 
"There is not, in America, a naval school that deserves 
the name, or that pretends to teach more than the mere 
rudiments of navigation. . . . Why are not steps 
taken to have our officers educated and fitted for this 
high responsibility? The idea of a naval academy has 
been ridiculed. This may be the fault of Congress; I 
will not lay the censure at the wrong door — but the De- 
partment has been equally inattentive to providing the 
young officers with the proper means of learning even 
practical seamanship". 

These "Harry Bluff" and "Will Watch" articles, to- 
gether with one other on "Navy Matters" by "Brandy- 
wine" which also appeared in the Whig at this time and 
reveals Maury's authorship through its style, contained 
the germs of the ideas which he more fully developed in his 
"Scraps from the Lucky Bag". This series of articles 
on the need of reform in the conduct of naval affairs 
appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger during the 
years 1840 and 1841, under Maury's former pseudonym 
of "Harry Bluff". The navy was then in a condition of 



HE RESORTS TO THE PEN 35 

dry rot, and the time was ripe for some courageous person 
to awaken the country to a realization of the true state of 
affairs and to point out the reforms that were needed. 
Maury's former experience in the naval service and his 
present enforced leisure led him to take up the task, 
which he performed with a brilliancy and a degree of 
success that was far beyond even his own expectation 
and gave him a national reputation. 

His choice of the Messenger as the medium for convey- 
ing to the public his ideas on maritime subjects had been 
made the previous year when there was published in it 
an unsigned article, entitled ''A Scheme for Rebuilding 
Southern Commerce: Direct Trade with the South". 
In this he first emphasized the importance of the Great 
Circle route for steamers between English and American 
ports and pointed out how the Great Western on her first 
voyage might have saved 260 miles by using such a route 
and thus have cut down the time of her passage by about 
one whole day. Maury claimed afterwards that after 
the appearance of his article a work on navigation was 
published in England and that one of its chief recommen- 
dations was its chapter on "great circle sailing". Its 
author was rewarded with a prize from the Royal Geo- 
graphical Society, and the work itself was extensively 
patronized by the Board of Admiralty, a copy of which 
they ordered to be supplied to each of the British men-of- 
war in commission. 

The significance of the title, "Scraps from the Lucky 
Bag", is indicated by the following introductory parody, 
which enumerates the contents of a lucky bag on ship- 
board : 

"Shoe of middy and waister's sock, 
Wing of soldier and idler's frock, 



36 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

Purser's slops and topman's hat, 
Boatswain's call and colt and cat, 
Belt that on the berth-deck lay, 
In the Lucky Bag find their way; 
Gaiter, stock, and red pompoon. 
Sailor's pan, his pot and spoon. 
Shirt of cook and trowser's duck, 
Kid and can and 'doctor's truck'. 
And all that's lost and found on board 
In the Lucky Bag's always stored." 

It was a well-chosen and apt title, which enabled 
Maury to treat in the same article of various matters 
more or less unrelated. Among the various topics that 
he touched upon was, first, the desirability of having 
grades in the navy higher than those of captain, to 
correspond with those in foreign navies. He also de- 
clared that there should be a larger force on the coast of 
Africa to put down the traffic in slaves, and more war- 
ships in the Pacific to support American commerce with 
China and to protect American fishermen on the whaling 
grounds. Thus prophetically did he portray the future 
of American trade on that ocean : ''If you have a map of 
the world at hand, turn to it and, placing your finger at 
the mouth of the Columbia River, consider its geographi- 
cal position and the commercial advantages which, at 
some day not far distant, that point will possess. To the 
south, in one unbroken line, lie several thousand miles of 
coast indented with rich markets of Spanish America — 
to the west, Asiatic Russia and China are close at hand — 
between the south and west are New Holland and 
Polynesia; and within good marketable distance are all 
the groups and clusters of islands that stud the ocean, 
from Cape Horn to the Cape of Good Hope, from Asia 
to America. Picture to yourself civilization striding the 
Rocky Mountains, and smiling down upon the vast and 



HE RESORTS TO THE PEN 37 

fruitful regions beyond, and calculate, if you can, the 
important and future greatness of that point to a com- 
mercial and enterprising people. Yet the first line in the 
hydrography of such a point remains to be run. It has 
been more than twenty years since an American man-of- 
war so much as looked into the mouth of the Columbia 
River. Upon what more important service could a small 
force be dispatched than to survey and bring home cor- 
rect charts of that river and its vicinity?" 

He then pointed out the unprepared ness of the country 
for war, and dwelt upon how the United States was 
forced weakly to acquiesce in the blockading of Mexico 
and the La Plata by France, and make no protest at the 
strengthening of her forts on the Great Lakes by England 
who was thus violating her treaty with this government. 
The navy should, he declared, experiment with steam 
vessels of war, and Pensacola and some point on the coast 
of Georgia or the eastern coast of Florida should be forti- 
fied . Turning then to personnel , he cont inued : * * 1 1 takes 
something more than spars and guns, and walls of wood 
to constitute a navy. These are only the body — the 
arms and legs without the thews and sinews. It requires 
the muscle of the brawny seaman, and the spirit of the 
well-trained officer to impart life and motion to such a 
body, to give vigor and energy to the whole system". 

A real system of education for the navy should be de- 
vised. The army, he said, had a Military Academy at 
West Point, "affording the most useful and practical 
education to be obtained in the country" ; while the navy 
was forced to make out with inefficient schoolmasters on 
board ship, and the midshipmen secured only a practical 
knowledge of seamanship, the manipulation of the sex- 
tant, a few rules by rote from Bowditch's "Epitome of 



38 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

Navigation", and a knowledge of right-angled plane 
trigonometry. Maury claimed that a broader training 
was needed, and suggested the following subjects as 
requisite for study: drawing and naval architecture, 
gunnery and pyrotechny, chemistry and natural history, 
astronomy, mathematics, natural philosophy, naviga- 
tion, tactics and discipline, gymnastics, international 
and maritime law, and languages (one of French, Span- 
ish, or German and "that most difficult, arbitrary, and 
careful of all languages, the English"). These subjects 
were to be covered in a four years' course, with a two 
months' cruise each year, sometimes to foreign waters; 
while two years at sea after graduation and an examina- 
tion at the end of that period of service were to be re- 
quired before a commission in the navy was to be 
awarded. 

At first, Maury proposed merely a school-ship ; but a 
little later after his articles had been received with such 
favor by the public he declared that his advocacy of a 
school-ship had been made solely on the grounds of 
expediency and that he would hail with delight the es- 
tablishment of a school for the navy anywhere, even on 
the top of the Rocky Mountains. He thereupon sug- 
gested Memphis, Tennessee as a suitable place for the 
school, on the grounds that the East had the Military 
Academy and the West should have the naval school, 
and besides that this would be a favorable place for 
experimenting on steam vessels on the Mississippi River. 
Though Maury was by no means the first to suggest the 
need for such an institution, yet no other person con- 
tributed so much as he did towards the education of 
public opinion and the preparation for the eventual es- 
tablishment of the Naval Academy. It is with justice, 



HE RESORTS TO THE PEN 39 

therefore, that he has often been referred to as the father 
of this famous institution. 

Continuing his discussion of the needs of the navy as to 
personnel, Maury recommended a reorganization and 
standardization of the number of officers in the various 
grades and a system of promotion that would keep alive 
the spirit and ambition of the officers. Surplus officers, 
he thought, might go into the merchant marine and 
constitute a naval reserve; while the revenue service 
should be taken over by the regular navy. 

Maury then turned to the question of material and 
devoted a great deal of attention to the graft and in- 
efficiency connected with the building and repairing of 
ships. ''Honorable legislators", he wrote, ''are warned 
that the evils are deeply seated in the system itself, and 
are not to be removed by merely the plucking of a leaf, or 
the lopping off of a limb: the axe must be laid at the 
root — for nothing short of thorough and complete re- 
organization w^ill do". His attack was directed particu- 
larly against the Board of Navy. Commissioners; and 
when this board attempted a reply, he answered with the 
most devastating article of the whole series, in which he 
piled up figures, and multiplied instances of graft and 
ruinous waste. As a summary, he wrote, "Vessels are 
built at twice the sum they ought to cost — they are re- 
paired at twice as much as it takes to build — the labor 
to repair costs three times as much as the labor to con- 
struct — the same articles for one ship cost four or hve 
times as much as their duplicates for another — it costs 
twice as much to repair ordnance and stores for a ship 
as it takes to buy them". Maury advocated in place 
of this board a bureau system with divided responsibility. 
The Secretary of the Navy, he thought, should have an 



40 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

assistant under-secretary, who should be a post captain 
in the navy and have general oversight over the various 
bureaus. Then promotions would be taken out of poli- 
tics, and the old saying that "a cruise of a few months in 
Washington tells more than a three years' cruise at sea 
in an officer's favor" would lose its significance. 

In his attempt to improve conditions in the naval 
service, Maury had the sympathy of a large number of 
his brother officers, some of whom gave practical expres- 
sion to their feeling by clubbing together and having large 
editions of the "Scraps from the Lucky Bag" printed for 
free distribution. In the month of July, 1841 there 
appeared a sketch of Maury in the Southern Literary 
Messenger, in which his name was for the first time con- 
nected with the authorship of the articles. It was 
written by a "Brother Officer", who said that the 
"Scraps from the Lucky Bag" had produced "an en- 
thusiasm which has not subsided and will not subside 
until the whole navy is reorganized". Such indeed was 
the outcome. Congress took up the matter, and many of 
Maury's suggested reforms were at once instituted, while 
practically everything that he contended for was even- 
tually adopted for the naval service. So famous did 
Maury become through the publication of these articles 
that the President was urged to place him at the head of 
the Navy Department ; and at one time President Tyler 
had actually made up his mind to make him his Secretary 
of the Navy in spite of the fact that he was then but a 
lieutenant. 

In November, 1841, Maury made another request for 
active service. In order that his family and friends 
might not defeat his purpose, he went to Richmond and 
from there wrote to Secretary of the Navy George E. 



HE RESORTS TO THE PEN 41 

Badger, suggesting that he was able to perform any of 
the lighter duties at sea which did not call for much 
bodily exercise, and requesting that he be appointed 
flag-lieutenant in the Pacific Squadron under Commo- 
fore Jones, who had signified a desire to have him in this 
post. His purpose, however, was thwarted by Judge 
John T. Lomax, a warm personal friend, who wrote to 
the Secretary and enclosed a certificate from three of the 
best physicians of Fredericksburg to the effect that 
Maury was in no condition for life on board ship ; and as 
a consequence he was retained on the list of those "wait- 
ing orders". 

After the completion of his "Scraps from the Lucky 
Bag", Maury continued to write for the Southern 
Literary Messenger] he rendered editorial service to Mr. 
White, the owner of the magazine, during the year 1842, 
and was virtually the editor during the first eight months 
of 1843 after White's death. He contributed also to the 
Army and Navy Chronicle and the Southern Quarterly 
Review of Charleston. 

His "Letters to Clay" in the Messenger under the 
pseudonym of "Union Jack" strongly advocated the 
establishment of a national dockyard at Memphis, 
government subsidies for the building of steam packets 
as England and France were doing, a national steamboat 
canal from the upper Mississippi River to the Lakes for 
defense against Canada in case of war with Great Britain, 
a strong naval establishment at some place on the 
Atlantic seaboard south of Norfolk, and the making of 
Pensacola a veritable "Toulon on the Mediterranean". 
The following year, 1842, he took up in the same journal 
the question of the right of Great Britain to visit and 
search American ships in the "suspicious" latitudes off 



42 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

Africa in the endeavor to suppress the slave trade. He 
was against according this right to England because of 
the temptation to use the power involved in an arbitrary 
manner greatly to the injury of American commerce, and 
he was of the opinion that it was merely an attempt, un- 
der the pretext of supporting the "Christian League" or 
Quintuple Alliance, to revive the old claim of England's 
right to violate sailors' rights and the freedom of the seas, 
principles fought for in the War of 1812. He referred, 
in passing, to the tense feeling against Great Britain on 
account of the Maine Boundary dispute, and the desire, 
on the part of many, even for war. "On the contrary", 
he wrote, "I should view a war between the United 
States and Great Britain as one of the greatest calamities, 
except a scourge direct from the hand of God, that could 
befall my country". But he added, "In the navy, there 
is but one sentiment and one feeling on this subject ; it is, 
avert war, honorably if you can ; if not, let it come : right 
or wrong, the stars and stripes shall not be disgraced on 
the ocean". 

He too was opposed to the slave trade, and thought 
that the United States would be glad to cooperate with 
Great Britain and furnish warships for the purpose ; but 
he doubted the sincerity of England, and referred point- 
edly to the "hosts of murdered Chinese who prefer 
instant death at the mouth of British cannon to the slow 
poison of a British drug", — the opium that was at that 
time being forced upon them by the British government. 
His conclusion was this: "When the British government 
shall cease to sell its captured slaves — when it shall 
abandon its intrigues for the right of search which has 
done the Africans so much more harm than good — and 
shall advocate some such practical plan as this (coopera- 



HE RESORTS TO THE PEN 43 

tion) for the suppression of the slave trade, then and not 
till then will we give the 'old country' credit for motives 
of humanity and a sincere desire to succor the slave". 

These were the last articles that Maury wrote before 
he was appointed to an office of great potential impor- 
tance, which was to afford the appropriate place for the 
complete flowering of his peculiar genius. This appoint- 
ment was given to him largely because of his writings ; 
namely, his ''New Theoretical and Practical Treatise on 
Navigation", "Scraps from the Lucky Bag", and other 
magazine articles. It might be said, therefore, that 
though he had been faithful in the performance of all the 
duties of his profession and, courageous as he was, would 
almost certainly have distinguished himself in warfare, 
yet up to this point in his career the pen, as an instru- 
ment for acquiring fame, had indeed been mightier than 
the sword. 



CHAPTER IV 
His Astronomical Work 

Maury took charge, on July 1, 1842, of the Depot of 
Charts and Instruments, of which he had just been made 
the superintendent by Secretary of the Navy Upshur. 
This depot had been estabHshed by the Navy Depart- 
ment in 1830, and Lieutenants Goldsborough, Wilkes, 
and Gilliss in succession had been its former superintend- 
ents. Wilkes had moved it from the western part of the 
city to Capitol Hill probably, as has been suggested, 
that its virtues and its needs might the more readily be 
noticed by Congress. Be that as it may, Congress 
passed an act on August 31, 1842, appropriating the sum 
of $35,000 for supplying adequate buildings and equip- 
ment for the depot. On the same day was passed 
another act, which dissolved the Board of Navy Com- 
missioners that had ruled the navy for twenty-seven 
years and had recently been attacked so forcefully by 
Maury, and established the Bureau System in its place. 
The Depot of Charts and Instruments, accordingly, was 
placed under the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography. 

Immediately after becoming superintendent, Maury 
moved the depot to a building between 24th and 25th 
Streets, N. W., known formerly as 2222-24 Pennsylvania 
Avenue, and to the rather limited accommodations here 
he brought his family. Meanwhile a new building was 
being constructed on a reservation at 23d and E Streets, 
N. W., where the Naval Medical School is now located, — 
a site covering about seventeen acres which had been 
reserved by General Washington for a great university. 

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HIS ASTRONOMICAL WORK 45 

This new building was to be of brick, in the form of a 
square about 50 feet by 50, surmounted by a dome 23 
feet in diameter, with wings to the south, east, and west. 
Later, in 1847, the superintendent's residence was con- 
structed and connected with the main building by an ex- 
tension of the east wing. 

The name of the institution varied. As the Depot of 
Charts and Instruments it was officially known from 
1830 to 1844; but for the next ten years the names Naval 
Observatory and National Observatory were used in- 
discriminately, sometimes even in the same publication. 
In December, 1854, the Secretary of the Navy instructed 
that it should henceforth be called the United States 
Naval Observatory and Hydrographical Office, and as 
such it was known until the establishment of the Hydro- 
graphic Office as a separate division in 1866. Since that 
date the official name of the institution has been the 
United States Naval Observatory. 

Near the close of September, 1844, the Observatory was 
reported to be completed, and on October 1 Maury was 
ordered to take charge with a staff of line officers and 
professors of mathematics of the navy, and civilian pro- 
fessors. Lieutenant James M. Gilliss, Maury's prede- 
cessor, had been greatly interested in astronomy, espe- 
cially that field of the science having to do with 
navigation, and it was largely through his exertions that 
the necessary legislation had been passed making possible 
a building, adapted not merely to the housing of charts 
and instruments but suitable as well for astronomical 
observations. He had been sent to Europe to consult 
about the purchasing of instruments for the new Observ- 
atory, and there were those who thought that he should 
have been made its first superintendent. 



46 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

However scantily informed Maury may have been in 
the beginning as to the great advance in astronomical 
science recently made in Europe, his great energy and 
native ability soon enabled him to overcome any such 
handicaps. He assisted with his own hands in the in- 
stallation of the instruments, in which he took great 
delight, writing that the Great Refraction Circle was 
such an exquisite piece of machinery and so beautiful that 
he would like to wear it round his neck as an ornament. 
He was constantly endeavoring to secure better and 
larger instruments, and wrote with pride when the 
Observatory, as far as equipment was concerned, became 
the second most important in the world and needed only 
a larger telescope to make it the very first of all. Maury 
quickly saw the value of the Electro-Chronograph, in- 
vented by John Locke of Cincinnati, in determining 
longitude with the aid of the magnetic telegraph, seeing 
that it would practically double the number of observa- 
tions that one observer could make; and it was largely 
through him that Congress was persuaded to appropriate 
the $10,000 necessary for installing the instrument at 
the Observatory. 

Maury was, moreover, by no means a mere figurehead 
in the making of astronomical observations, but soon 
mastered the details of this work which might have been 
left wholly to his subordinates. During the first two 
years he was the principal observer with the equatorial, 
and it is interesting to note how often his name appears 
as the observer in the published extracts from the note- 
books of the Observatory. That he had much more 
than a mere passing interest in astronomy is evident 
from the following account of his emotions during an 
astronomical observation: ''To me the simple passage 



HIS ASTRONOMICAL WORK 47 

through the transit instrument of a star across the 
meridian is the height of astronomical subHmity. At the 
dead hour of the night, when the world is hushed in sleep 
and all is still ; when there is not a sound to be heard save 
the dead beat escapement of the clock, counting with 
hollow voice the footsteps of time in his ceaseless round, 
I turn to the Ephemeris and find there, by calculation 
made years ago, that when that clock tells a certain 
hour, a star which I never saw will be in the field of the 
telescope for a moment, flit through, and then disappear. 
The instrument is set ; — I look ; the star, mute with elo- 
quence that gathers sublimity from the silence of the 
night, comes smiling and dancing into the field, and at 
the instant predicted even to the fraction of a second it 
makes its transit and is gone ! With emotions too deep 
for the organs of speech, the heart swells out with un- 
utterable anthems; we then see that there is harmony 
in the heavens above; and though we cannot hear, we 
feel the 'music of the spheres' ".^ 

Maury's first volume of astronomical observations, 
the first indeed to be issued from an American observa- 
tory, appeared in 1846. Though this was pioneer work, 
it was important enough to cause one of the most dis- 
tinguished astronomers of Europe to conclude that it had 
placed the American observatory in the front rank with 
the oldest and best institutions of the kind in Europe. In 
the appendix to this volume, Maury gives very generous 
credit and praise to his helpers, among whom were at 
this time the distinguished mathematicians Hubbard, 
Keith, and Coffin; but he adds that he considers himself 

1 From *'The National Observatory" read by Maury before the Virginia 
Historical Society. It was copied from The Historical Register in the Southern 
Literary Messenger of May, 1849. 



48 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

alone responsible for the accuracy of the work as nothing 
had been published until it had passed his supervision 
and approval. 

A very ambitious work which Maury began during the 
year 1845 was a catalogue of the stars. The aim was to 
cover every point of space in the visible heavens with 
telescopes, get the position of every star, cluster, and 
nebula, and record both magnitude and color, with the 
angle of position and the distance of binary stars to- 
gether with descriptions and drawings of all clusters and 
nebula^. No astronomical work on such an extensive 
scale had ever before been executed or even attempted, 
though the value and importance of it were manifold 
and difficult of full estimation. Maury wrote that it 
was his intention to make a contribution to astronomy 
that would be worthy of the nation and the age, and to 
so execute the undertaking that future astronomers 
would value it so highly as to say that such a star was 
not visible in the heavens at the date of the Washington 
Catalogue because it is not recorded therein. 

An interesting example of the extremely practical 
value of such a catalogue came up in connection with 
Leverrier's discovery of the planet Neptune. In the 
autumn of 1846, after the discovery of this planet, 
Maury ordered one of his observers to trace its path 
backwards to see if some astronomer had observed it 
and entered it as a fixed star. On February 1, 1847, the 
observer, Sears Cook Walker, gave a list of fourteen 
stars from Lalande's catalogue in his ''Histoire Celeste", 
where Neptune should have been approximately in May, 
1795. Professor Hubbard was then directed by Maury 
to examine with the equatorial, and he found on the 
night of February 4 that the suspected star was missing. 



HIS ASTRONOMICAL WORK 49 

It was concluded, therefore, that Lalande had observed 
and recorded Neptune as a fixed star on the nights of 
May 8 and 10, 1795. This discovery enabled astrono- 
mers to compute the new planet's orbit from observations 
extending over a period of fifty years. 

The work on this catalogue was carried forward in- 
dustriously for several years, but the results were not 
ready to be published in the volume of observations for 
the year 1846 because of the continual drafts on the 
personnel of the Observatory for sea duty, which made 
it impossible for the computers to keep pace with the 
observers. Eventually, Maury was compelled to aban- 
don the hope of ever finishing a complete catalogue of 
the stars, as at first planned. The observations con- 
tinued to be made, however, and by January of 1855 the 
number of stars which had been so observed reached the 
grand total of 100,000; but these results w^ere not pub- 
lished until 1873, long after Maury's superintendency 
had come to a close. Maury would never have under- 
taken such an ambitious work, if he had realized the 
Herculean labor involved in the cataloguing of all the 
stars down to the 10th magnitude in all the heavens 
from 45° south to the North Pole, a colossal undertaking 
that was entirely beyond the capacity of any one observ- 
atory to accomplish in a generation. 

The appearance of the second volume of astronomical 
observations was delayed because of the inroads made on 
Maury's staff by the demands of the Mexican War. 
Then when the work was on the point of being published 
it was destroyed by a fire which burned the printing 
office. So the volume did not appear until the year 
1851; and as the years went by publications fell further 
and further behind the observations. There is no 



50 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

doubt but that Maury was greatly handicapped by the 
assignment of officers to the Observatory for irregular 
periods, and by the reduction of the number of his 
mathematicians as time went by. There was, besides, 
the hydrographical work of his office which made con- 
stantly increasing demands on him and his staff. When 
he was forced by this lack in personnel to make a choice 
between the more complete development of astronomical 
observations on the one hand, and hydrographical and 
meteorological research on the other, he wisely chose the 
latter as of more immediate and practical value to the 
United States, and indeed to the entire world. 




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CHAPTER V 
His Wind and Current Charts 

At the top of all the pilot charts issued by the Hydro- 
graphic Office of the Navy Department are written these 
words: "Founded upon the researches made and the 
data collected by Lieutenant M. F. Maury, U. S. 
Navy". This is an appropriate memorial to Maury's 
most practical contribution to science, — that which has 
given him the name "Pathfinder of the Seas". 

For a long time he had recognized the need for charts 
showing the winds and currents of the sea at different 
seasons; and it will be remembered that, when he was 
sailing master of the Falmouth, 1831-1833, he was first 
made to realize how little of the nautical experience of 
other sailors could be taken advantage of by one about 
to set out on a long voyage. On the way down to Rio 
in this ship he first conceived the idea of a wind and cur- 
rent chart ; but he had no opportunity to make practical 
investigations into the meteorology of the sea until the 
year 1842, when he was placed in charge of the Depot of 
Charts and Instruments. 

He had been in this office but a short time when he 
set about examining the old log books which had been 
stored away as so much rubbish by the Navy Depart- 
ment. By the middle of the year 1843, these investiga- 
tions had proved so illuminating that he was able to 
write a paper, which was read before the National 
Institute, on "Blank Charts on Board Public Cruisers". 
According to his plan, these charts were to have parallels 
and meridians showing the latitude and longitude laid 

51 



52 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

down Upon them, and the commanders of ships were to 
be requested to lay ojff on them the tracks of their 
vessels every day, and indicate as well the time of the 
year, the direction of the winds, the force and set of the 
currents, and all other phenomena having a bearing on 
the navigation of the seas on which they sailed. Sailing 
directions, Maury declared in this address, are now not a 
written branch of navigation but merely a matter of 
tradition among seamen. As to his contemplated chart, 
he boldly asserted that short passages are not due to 
luck and that ''this chart proposes nothing less than to 
blaze a way through the winds of the sea by which the 
navigator may find the best paths at all seasons". 

Not having at that time made a name for himself as a 
scientist, Maury thought it wise to seek the support of 
the National Institute, and asked that a committee be 
appointed from its members to wait upon Secretary of 
the Navy Upshur and invite his cooperation in author- 
izing that these charts be kept on all public cruisers. 
Such cooperation was, after a fashion, granted, and 
Maury drew up a letter of instructions at the request of 
the Secretary. But as not much political capital was to 
be made of it, the matter ended with the issuing of a set 
of instructions to Commodore Biddle who was on the 
point of sailing for China in the Columbus. Maury then 
asked permission of the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydro- 
graphy to make a chart of the Atlantic American sea- 
board. He was ashamed, he wrote, of the meagerness 
of the contributions of the United States to the general 
fund of nautical science, and called attention to the fact 
that even the charts used by an American man-of-war in 
making her way up the Chesapeake Bay toward Wash- 
ington had to be secured from the English Admiralty, 



HIS WIND AND CURRENT CHARTS 53 

and that, if it were not for the Nautical Almanac of 
England or some other nation, absent American ships 
could not find their way home and those in port could 
not lift their anchors and grope to sea with any certainty 
of finding their way back again. 

At about the same time Maury began the compilation 
of a chart of the North Atlantic for the purpose of laying 
down upon it the tracks of vessels in all seasons of the 
year, with the currents, prevailing winds, temperature 
of the water, etc. At first, he had the intention of 
delineating the track of each vessel on the chart but he 
soon saw that it would be impossible to do so on the scale 
adopted (one inch to the degree), and he then resorted 
to the plan of tabulating the results only instead of mark- 
ing the track. It was not until the autumn of 1847 that 
his researches, which had then extended over nearly 
five years, had reached the point where he could publish 
his first ''Wind and Current Chart of the North 
Atlantic". This chart was founded entirely upon. in- 
formation derived from the old discarded log books of the 
Navy Department, for he had not then secured much 
cooperation in the acquiring of new data. Maury com- 
pared his work in the "quarry of log books" to that of a 
sculptor, the single touch of whose chisel does but little ; 
but finally like the completed piece of statuary the charts 
speak for themselves and stand out before the compiler 
"eloquent with facts which the philosopher had never 
dreamed were lurking near". 

Early in the year 1848 Maury issued what he called 
an "Abstract Log for the Use of American Navigators". 
This was devised to secure the cooperation of navigators 
in gathering information for perfecting his charts. It 
contained but ten pages together with some blank forms, 



54 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

and was the very modest beginning of what he afterwards 
issued as "Sailing Directions", which eventually grew to 
the enormous size of 1257 pages in two volumes in quarto. 
The purpose of the little pamphlet was to interpret the 
meaning and the significance of the wind and current 
chart which had recently been issued, and to furnish 
instructions to navigators for the proper keeping of the 
abstract log on their voyages. They were to enter in 
this log the latitude and longitude every day at noon ; 
the hourly rate of the currents expressed in knots; the 
variation of the compass; the reading of the thermom- 
eter, in both air and water, at nine o'clock each morning; 
the state of the barometer just before, during, and just 
after a gale of wind with the changes and time of changes 
in the direction of the wind during the gale ; careful en- 
tries as to the direction and force of the winds every 
eight hours ; and other marine phenomena such as whales, 
flocks of birds, rains and fogs, etc., etc. When properly 
filled out, these logs were to be sent to Maury at the 
Observatory where the information would be tabulated. 
It was also suggested that tightly corked bottles contain- 
ing the latitude and longitude, and the date be thrown 
overboard at stated times, and that such floating bottles 
be picked up when seen, and the place and time be 
carefully noted in the abstract log. Those who agreed 
to cooperate in these various ways were to receive free 
of cost a copy of the "Wind and Current Chart of the 
North Atlantic". 

Maury predicted confidently that, by following his 
directions, the average 55 days' voyage from New York 
to Rio by the old route might be shortened by from 10 
to 15 days. This prediction was fulfilled by the barque 
W. H. D. C. Wright of Baltimore, which early in 1848 



HIS WIND AND CURRENT CHARTS 55 

went from the Capes of Virginia to Rio in 35 days and 
returned in 40 days, by following Maury's directions. 
This created considerable interest in the new charts, and 
the number of those willing to cooperate in the new 
research on the sea constantly increased from year to 
year. Maury had long looked forward to the prospect 
of no longer being compelled to search through cartloads 
of manuscripts and dusty log books, kept in years gone 
by without system and with little or no regard to the 
facts which he wished to obtain from them, but of 
having as co-laborers a thousand or more vessels every 
year engaged in collecting exactly the information re- 
quired so that it would come to his hands precisely in the 
form in which it was desired. In this he was not to be 
disappointed for by the close of the year 1848 he was 
able to write that his charts were eagerly sought by 
navigators and that some five or six thousand of them 
had been distributed during the year to American ship- 
masters. By no means all of these navigators kept their 
part of the agreement and sent in to Maury their abstract 
logs properly filled out; but enough data kept coming in 
to keep his staff of helpers constantly at work turning out 
his various charts. By 1851, he could write that more 
than one thousand ships in all the oceans were observing 
for him, and that enough material had been collected 
from abstract logs to make two hundred large manu- 
script volumes each averaging from two thousand to 
three thousand days' observations. 

These "Wind and Current Charts" included Track 
Charts, Trade Wind Charts, Pilot Charts, Thermal 
Charts, Storm and Rain Charts, and Whale Charts. 
The Track Charts showed the frequented parts of the 
ocean, the general character of the weather and wind, 



56 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

and the force and direction of the latter at different 
seasons of the year. The Trade Wind Charts gave the 
limits, extent, and general characteristics of the trade 
wind regions, together with their neighboring zones of 
calms. The Pilot Charts showed in every square of 
fifteen degrees the direction of the wind for sixteen points 
of the compass that would probably be found in that 
square during each month of the year, the results being 
based upon the number of times the wind was reported 
to have been from that direction in former years. The 
Thermal Charts recorded the temperature of the surface 
of the ocean wherever and whenever it had been ob- 
served, the different temperatures being distinguished 
by colors and symbols in such a manner that mere in- 
spection of the chart showed the temperature for any 
month. The Storm and Rain Charts demonstrated in 
every square of five degrees the number of observations 
that had been made for each month, the number of days 
in which there had been rain, a calm, fog, lightning and 
thunder, or a storm and the quarter from which it had 
blown. The Whale Charts, finally, showed where 
whales were most hunted, in what years and months 
they had been most frequently found, whether in shoals 
or as stragglers, and whether sperm or right whales. 

Though the cooperation which Maury enjoyed was an 
extensive one, he was still not satisfied, and as early as 
1851 he conceived the idea of a universal system of 
meteorological observations on both land and sea. 
Through the advice of British scientists, he decided to 
confine his system, for the time being, only to the sea, 
though he was afterwards to regret such a curtailment 
of his original scheme. With the authority of Secretary 
of the Navy William A. Graham, to whom Maury was 



HIS WIND AND CURRENT CHARTS 57 

greatly indebted for very generous support in furthering 
his ambitious project, he set to work through diplomatic 
representatives of foreign countries at Washington to 
interest as many meteorologists as possible in the 
convening of an international meteorological conference. 
The United States also was asked to cooperate, through 
letters which Maury sent to the various Cabinet Mem- 
bers, heads of the Coast Survey, the Bureau of Engineers, 
and the Smithsonian Institute, and other scientists. 
Paris was at first considered to be a suitable place for 
the meeting; but eventually Brussels was chosen, and 
the following nations accepted the invitation to send 
representatives: Belgium, Denmark, France, Great 
Britain, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, 
Sweden, and the United States. 

Maury, as the representative of the United States, 
sailed from New York on July 23, 1853, by way of Eng- 
land. Upon landing at Liverpool, he was invited to 
address the merchants in the City Hall on the subject 
of the uniform plan of observation at sea, and the 
following month he spoke to the underwriters and ship- 
owners of London at Lloyd's on the same subject. 
These speeches produced a more cordial cooperation on 
the part of the British government which had previously 
been rather lukewarm in its attitude toward the under- 
taking. 

The conference was convened at the residence of the 
Minister of the Interior in Brussels on August 23, 1853, 
and Jacques Adolphe Lambert Quetelet, Director of the 
Royal Observatory of Belgium, was made its president. 
Maury was requested to direct the proceedings of the 
conference, but he declined the honor. He was then asked 
by the president to state the purposes of the meeting. 



58 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

and after his short introductory address President 
Quetelet proposed that the conference pass a vote of 
thanks to Maury and record their gratitude for the 
"enHghtened zeal and earnestness" he had displayed in 
the important and useful work which formed the subject 
of their deliberations. This, of course, was unanimously 
passed. The discussions went on daily with the greatest 
harmony, until the close of the conference on September 
8. The results were the adoption of an abstract log for 
the use of the men-of-war of all nations and also one for 
all merchantmen to use in the system of cooperative 
observations. Full explanatory notes for the keeping 
of these logs in such a way as to cover all the phenomena 
of the ocean were agreed upon, and the hope was ex- 
pressed that these abstract logs might enjoy in time of 
war the same immunity that was accorded to vessels 
engaged in discovery or other scientific research. 

The Brussels Conference was an unqualified success, 
and Maury was very enthusiastic over the new chapter 
of Marine Meteorology which was about to be opened in 
the volume of Nature. "Rarely before", he wrote 
somewhat later, "has there been such a sublime spectacle 
presented to the scientific world : all nations agreeing to 
unite and cooperate in carrying out one system of philo- 
sophical research with regard to the sea. Though they 
may be enemies in all else, here they are to be friends. 
Every ship that navigates the high seas, with these 
charts and blank abstract logs on board, may henceforth 
be regarded as a floating observatory, a temple of 



science 



" 1 



Soon after the conference, Prussia, Spain, Sardinia, 

1 From "Introduction", p. xiii, to Maury's Physical Geography of the Sea, 
1855. 



HIS WIND AND CURRENT CHARTS 59 

the free city of Hamburg, the repubHc of Bremen, Chile, 
Austria, and Brazil, all joined the enterprise; and the 
Pope established honorary flags of distinction for the 
ships of the papal states, which could be awarded only 
to those vessels which kept the abstract logs of the 
Brussels Conference. 

Maury took with him on this mission to Europe his two 
eldest daughters and their cousins Ellen Herndon and 
Ellen Maury, who were dubbed by acclamation on the 
steamer the "Magpie Club". In England the party was 
invited to Wrottesley Hall near Wolverhampton, by 
Lord Wrottesley, then President of the Royal and Astro- 
nomical Societies, with whom Maury had corresponded 
for several years. Before returning to America, he and 
his ''Magpie Club" traveled in France, Holland, and 
Germany, and visited the great scientist Humboldt, 
whose "Cosmos" had greatly influenced Maury's scien- 
tific ideas. 

Back at home again, Maury took up his work with 
renewed energy, and with the data which came in, 
through the greatly increased cooperation, from all 
quarters and in many different languages, he revised his 
charts of the North and South Atlantic, and of the North 
and South Pacific, and then charted the Indian Ocean as 
well. Not only was the route to Rio definitely decreased 
by one fourth, but also other passages began to be 
shortened with the accompanying saving for all the men 
and commerce that used Maury's suggested routes. The 
gold rush to California, which began in 1849, vastly 
increased the shipping from the Atlantic ports of the 
United States to San Francisco. Time then became a 
more important element in that passage than ever before, 
and in 1850 clipper ships were launched for this particu- 



60 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

lar trade, with the object of making the voyage as short 
as possible. It was, therefore, a splendid opportunity 
for putting Maury's charts to the test, and the practical 
results of his new sailing directions soon displayed them- 
selves. 

Before his charts came to be used, the average passage 
from New York to San Francisco was about 180 days, 
but by the year 1855 the average passage between those 
ports for the year round had been reduced to 133 days. 
Moreover, there were dozens of clipper ships which, 
under Maury's directions, made the voyage in 110 days 
or even less. The record was made in 185 1 by the Flying 
Cloud, which fairly flew over the passage in 89 days and 
21 hours, during one day making the extraordinary 
distance of 433J statute miles or sailing at the rate of 
18 statute miles per hour. This exploit was celebrated 
with great rejoicing in San Francisco, because the in- 
habitants felt that they had been brought so much 
nearer to their old homes in the East. 

Under the circumstances it was but natural that there 
should be races among the clipper ships. The route 
from New York to San Francisco became the great race- 
course of the ocean, fifteen thousand miles in length. 
As Maury wrote, "Some of the most glorious trials of 
speed and prowess that the world ever witnessed, among 
ships that 'walk the waters', have taken place over it. 
Here the modern clipper ship — the noblest work that 
has ever come from the hands of man — has been sent, 
guided by the lights of science, to contend with the 
elements, to outstrip steam, and astonish the world".^ 
There was the great race in 1851 of the Raven, the 
Typhoon, and the Sea Witch, which was won by the first- 

2 "Physical Geography of the Sea", 1855, p. 263. 



HIS WIND AND CURRENT CHARTS 61 

mentioned in 105 days, though the year before this same 
ship had made the run in 97 days. 

Another famous race was run during the winter of 
1852-1853, and the ships which engaged in it were the 
Wild Pigeon, John Gilpin, Flying Fish, and Trade Wind. 
These ships, as were those in the former race, were all 
furnished with Maury's charts. After a most interesting 
and exciting race, the Flying Fish won in just 92 days and 
4 hours, though the John Gilpin was a close second, 
making the passage in 93 days and 20 hours. In com- 
menting on these results, Maury wrote, "Here are ships 
sailing on different days, bound over a trackless waste 
of ocean for some fifteen thousand miles or more, and 
depending alone on the fickle winds of heaven, as they 
are called, to waft them along; yet, like travelers on the 
land bound upon the same journey, they pass and repass, 
fall in with and recognize each other by the way; and 
what, perhaps, is still more remarkable is the fact that 
these ships should each, throughout that great distance 
and under the wonderful vicissitudes of climates, winds, 
and currents, which they encountered, have been so 
skillfully navigated that, in looking back at their man- 
agement, now that what is past is before me, I do not 
find a single occasion, except the one already mentioned, 

on which they could have been better handled 

Am I far wrong, therefore, when I say that the present 
state of our knowledge,- with regard to the physical 
geography of the sea, has enabled the navigator to blaze 
his way among the winds and currents of the sea, and so 
mark his path that others, using his signs as finger- 
boards, may follow in the same track?"^ 

The degree of exactness which Maury's knowledge of 

2 "Sailing Directions", sixth edition (1854), pp. 725-730. 



62 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

the sea had reached is best illustrated by the incident of 
the San Francisco. This ship, bound from New York to 
San Francisco with a regiment of soldiers on board, was 
disabled in a hurricane on the day before Christmas, 
1853 while crossing the Gulf Stream about 300 miles 
from Sandy Hook. Her position on the following day, 
and the next day after that, was reported by passing ves- 
sels which were, however, unable to render her assistance. 
Maury was then asked by the Secretary of the Navy to 
calculate her position for the assistance of the two relief 
ships which were to be dispatched in search of the un- 
fortunate vessel. Although three other ships, the Kilby, 
the Three Bells, and the Antarctic, fell in with the wreck 
and rescued the remainder of her passengers, after 179 
men had been washed overboard, yet it is an astonishing 
fact that Maury had so accurately guided the two 
searching revenue cutters that one of them went within 
sight of the spot where the drifting vessel had shortly 
before been found. 

There was still another important passage that Maury 
aided materially in shortening. This was the voyage 
from England to Australia and New Zealand. He op- 
posed the British Admiralty route which passed near the 
Cape of Good Hope, and advised ships to sail 600 to 800 
miles further westward and then to continue southward 
until they reached the prevailing strong westerly winds 
which drove the clippers onward at a tremendous rate. 
He advised them, when homeward bound, to continue 
in those "brave west winds" and return by way of Cape 
Horn. A voyage out to Australia and home again, 
accordingly, encircled the globe. Whereas by the old 
route it had taken about 120 days each way on the 
average, by Maury's new route the passage for American 



HIS WIND AND CURRENT CHARTS 63 

sailings was decreased by one third and that for the 
British by about one fifth. 

This shortening of ships' passages amounted to a vast 
saving to the commerce of the world. It was estimated 
that the annual saving to British commerce in the Indian 
Ocean alone, from Maury's charts and sailing directions, 
amounted to $1,000,000 at least, and the amount saved 
to British commerce in all seas reached the stupendous 
sum of $10,000,000 annually. As to the United States, 
it has been conservatively estimated that the saving for 
the outward voyage alone from her Atlantic and Cali- 
fornia ports to those of South America, Australia, China, 
and the East Indies amounted to $2,250,000 per annum. 

For many years the scientific world rang with Maury's 
praise, though there were, of course, some detractors. 
In referring to these ''closet men of science" who claimed 
that he pushed his speculations oftentimes beyond the 
limits which the facts before him would authorize a 
prudent and cautious investigator to go, he wrote that 
the true problem with which he had to deal was to use 
his opportunities so as to produce the greatest good to the 
greatest numbers, and that he was willing to be judged 
by the fruits of his labor. Furthermore, he announced 
again and again in his "Sailing Directions" the following 
rule by which his investigations had always been guided : 
"To keep the mind unbiassed by theories and specula- 
tions ; never to have any wish that an investigation would 
result in favor of this view in preference to that, and 
never to attempt by premature speculation to anticipate 
the results of investigation, but always to trust to the 
observations". 

In spite of his great achievements, Maury's own coun- 
trymen were rather backward about rewarding him. 



64 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

The University of North CaroHna conferred upon him 
an A.M. degree in 1847 and a LL.D. in 1852, and Colum- 
bia University made him a Doctor of Laws in 1854. 
A. A. Low and Brothers of New York named one of their 
cHpper barques in his honor in 1855. But the most 
substantial reward bestowed upon him in the United 
States came in 1853, when the merchants and under- 
writers of New York presented him a fine silver service 
and a purse of $5000 in recognition for what he had done 
for the commerce of that great port. Six years later, a 
testimonial signed by 363 different American shipowners, 
masters, and merchants was sent to him as an expression 
of their "personal regard and esteem". 

The reports of the various Secretaries of the Navy from 
1850 to 1855 referred in the highest terms of appreciation 
to the hydrographical work which Maury was doing. 
Secretary Graham went so far as to write, "Indeed, I 
doubt whether the triumphs of navigation and the 
knowledge of the sea, achieved under your superintend- 
ence of the Observatory, will not contribute as much to 
an effective naval service and to the national fame as the 
brilliant trophies of our arms". Still, notwithstanding 
this official praise, Maury was kept in the rank of lieu- 
tenant, and an attempt made in the Senate in January, 
1855 to secure an appropriation of $25,000, as "some 
substantial evidence of the appreciation of the benefits 
he has, by his labors, conferred upon his country", came 
to nought; and a short time thereafter he was treated 
with the greatest cruelty by the Navy Department which 
placed him for a time in official disgrace and reduced his 
pay to $1200 per annum. 

Abroad, on the contrary, Maury received almost uni- 
versal recognition, and the rulers of Europe seemed to 



HIS WIND AND CURRENT CHARTS 65 

Vie with each other in conferring medals and decorations 
upon him. Up to the time of the outbreak of the Civil 
War, he had been made a member of some 45 learned 
societies, about 20 of which were in foreign countries. 
He was made a knight of the Order of Dannebrog by the 
King of Denmark in 1856, and the following year a 
knight of the Order of St. Anne by the Czar of Russia 
and a commander of the Legion of Honor by the Em- 
peror of France; while in 1859 he had conferred upon 
him the Order of the Tower and Sword by the King of 
Portugal. Moreover, between the years of 1854 and 
1859 gold medals were presented to him by the rulers 
of Norway and Sweden, Prussia, the republic of Bremen, 
Holland, Austria, Sardinia, and France; and in addition 
a medal of honor was awarded him for his charts at the 
Paris Universal Exhibition of 1855, and only the year 
before the beginning of the Civil War the Pope sent him 
a set of thirteen beautiful silver medals. There were two 
gold medals from Prussia; namely, the medal designed for 
distinguished works of science and the Cosmos Medal, 
which had been struck by the King of Prussia to honor 
Humboldt upon the publication of his "Cosmos" and 
which was given to Maury because of the warm personal 
friendship that had long existed between the two great 
scientists. 

Thus was Maury's resourcefulness and perseverance 
in investigating the wind^ and currents of the sea and in 
presenting the results of his research in a practical form 
for the use of the mariners of the world crowned with 
success ; and whatever the future might hold in store for 
him, he must have then realized that he had gained for 
himself an entrance into that small company of the 
world's most distinguished scientists. 



CHAPTER VI 
His Physical Geography of the Sea 

Maury's investigations of the winds and currents of 
the sea led him into researches connected with all the 
phenomena of the ocean, the results of which were so 
extensive and so valuable as to win for him the right to 
be called the first great oceanographer of the world. 

At the beginning of his work at the Depot of Charts 
and Instruments, he uncovered in the old log books facts 
relating to the Gulf Stream, which led him to certain 
interesting conclusions concerning this great ocean cur- 
rent that had not been previously recognized. In July, 
1843 he gave an address before the President, the Corps 
Diplomatique, and important government officials on 
"The Gulf Stream and Its Causes", which was reread 
with certain variations before several different learned 
societies during the following year. He continued to 
write such scientific papers on topics bearing on 
oceanography, while he was engaged in astronomical 
work and the preparation of his wind and current charts, 
and these papers, after being delivered before scientific 
societies, were published by him in the astronomical and 
meteorological publications of his office. Of particular 
note were those which appeared in the different editions 
of his "Sailing Directions" under such titles as "The 
Influence of the Gulf Stream on the Trade of Charles- 
ton", '*The Currents of the Sea", "On the Saltness of 
the Sea", "On the General Circulation of the Atmos- 
phere", "Red Fogs and Sea Dust", "On the Probable 
Relation between Magnetism and the Circulation of the 

66 



/ 




/ 



Copy of engraving furnished by Captain E. T. Pollock, U. S. X. Superintendent Naval Observatory. 

Copy of an Engraving of Maury Which Hangs in the Superintendent's 
Office at the United States Naval Observatory 



HIS PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY OF THE SEA 67 

Atmosphere", ''Of Clouds and Equatorial Cloud Rings", 
"On the Geological Agency of the Winds", and "Deep 
Sea Soundings". 

The last-mentioned paper was made possible by the 
cooperation afforded by the government in authorizing 
in 1849 the Secretary of the Navy to detail three suitable 
vessels to assist in Maury's wind and current investiga- 
tions and to order all ships of the navy to cooperate in so 
far as it was compatible with the public interest. Maury 
had long had a desire to explore the bottom of the ocean, 
and he now saw to it that these ships especially de- 
tailed to help him were equipped and thoroughly in- 
structed for making soundings. The first attempts were 
made by the schooner Taney, under the command of 
Lieutenant J. C. Walsh, in the autumn of 1849. But 
her work was of negligible value, as she succeeded only 
in losing some 5700 fathoms of line as well as her deep- 
sea sounding apparatus, and then proved so unseaworthy 
that she had to be condemned and sent back home under 
escort. Later, however, the results secured particularly 
by Captain Charles T. Piatt in the sloop of war Albany 
and by Lieutenants S. P. Lee and O. H. Berryman in the 
brig Dolphin were of great importance. So extensive 
was the data regarding soundings at Maury's command 
by the close of the year 1853 that he was able to publish 
in the sixth edition of his "Sailing Directions" (1854) 
ninety pages of matter under the heading of "Physical 
Geography of the Sea". 

This edition of the "Sailing Directions" was brought 
out by E. C. and J. Biddle of Philadelphia, and when 
Maury's nephew, Dabney Maury, went to see the 
publishers about some question connected with its pub- 
lication, one of the firm called his attention to the fact 



68 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

that Maury's annual report contained materials for a 
most interesting and valuable book. He warned him 
that, unless the results of his investigations were thus 
guarded by a copyright, he would have the chagrin of 
seeing ''some Yankee bookmaker steal his thunder and 
reap a fortune from it". By the next mail Maury was 
advised of this. He at once became interested in the 
undertaking and, with the advice of the Biddies, arrange- 
ments were made with Harpers for the publication of 
such a book. It was begun in the spring of 1854, and 
finished and ready for the publishers by June 20 of the 
same year. Maury was of the opinion that it was to be 
his ^^ great work", and time certainly proved that he had 
not overestimated its importance. 

The title of the book was taken from one of the chapter 
headings in the sixth edition of his "Sailing Directions", 
and was originally suggested to Maury by Humboldt,, 
who wrote that Maury's investigations had produced an 
amount of useful information sufficient, in his opinion, 
to constitute a new department of science which he called 
the Physical Geography of the Seas. The first edition, 
published early in the year 1855, contained only 274 
pages, and was dedicated "as a token of friendship and a 
tribute to worth" to George Manning of New York who 
had been of great assistance to Maury in the distribution 
of the wind and current charts. In 1861, the eighth and 
last American edition of 474 pages appeared, and at 
about the same time an English edition was published 
by Sampson Low, Son and Company in London. This 
American edition was dedicated to William C. Hasbrouck 
of Newburgh, New York "as a token of the friendship 
and esteem, from boyhood till now, of his former pupil" ; 
while the English edition was inscribed to Lord Wrottes- 



HIS PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY OF THE SEA 69 

ley. The book ran to as many as nineteen editions in 
England, where it bore the somewhat fuller title of 
"Physical Geography of the Sea and Its Meteorology". 
It has been translated into Dutch, German, French, 
Italian, Spanish, and Norwegian, and has been used as 
a textbook in several naval schools on the Continent. 

As to the contents and general scope of his book, 
Maury wrote in the introduction, ''Under this term will 
be included a philosophical account of the winds and 
currents of the sea; of the circulation of the atmosphere 
and ocean; of the temperature and depth of the sea; of 
the wonders that are hidden in its depths; and of the 
phenomena that display themselves at its surface. In 
short, I shall treat of the economy of the sea and its 
adaptations— of its salts, its waters, its climates, and its 
inhabitants, and of whatever there may be of general 
interest in its commercial uses or industrial pursuits, 
for all such things pertain to its Physical Geography". 
It contained also a number of illustrative plates, among 
which was the first bathymetric map ever made of the 
North Atlantic Ocean, with contour-lines drawn in at 
1000, 2000, 3000, and 4000 fathoms. 

Some idea of the nature of the book and of Maury's 
peculiar style can be best secured by the consideration 
of some selections taken from it here and there. Those 
quoted below are, of course, of the nature of "purple 
patches", for it must not be supposed that there are no 
dry and uninteresting passages in the book; but they are 
fairly representative and will probably serve the purpose 
intended. Maury was the first scientist to make a care- 
ful study of the Gulf Stream, and the first chapter of his 
"Physical Geography of the Sea" is devoted to this 
mighty ocean current. The reader's interest is gained 



70 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

and his imagination is excited at once by these opening 
sentences: ''There is a river in the ocean. In the 
severest droughts it never fails, and in the mightiest 
floods it never overflows. Its banks and its bottom are 
of cold water, while its current is of warm. The Gulf of 
Mexico is its fountain, and its mouth is in the Arctic 
Seas. It is the Gulf Stream. There is in the world no 
other such majestic flow of waters. Its current is more 
rapid than the Mississippi or the Amazon, and its volume 
more than a thousand times greater". 

In the chapter on the "Influence of the Gulf Stream 
upon Climates" is the followng striking passage on 
whales and other animals of the sea: ''Now, the Western 
Islands is the great place of resort for whales: and at 
first there is something curious to us in the idea that the 
Gulf of Mexico is the harvest-field, and the Gulf Stream 
the gleaner which collects the fruitage planted there, and 
conveys it thousands of miles off to the hungry whale at 
sea. But how perfectly in unison is it with the kind and 
providential care of that great and good Being which 
feeds the young ravens when they cry, and caters for the 
sparrow. . . . 

"The inhabitants of the ocean are as much the crea- 
tures of climate as are those of the dry land ; for the same 
Almighty hand, which decked the lily and cares for the 
sparrow, fashioned also the pearl and feeds the great 
whale, and adapted each to the physical conditions by 
which His providence has surrounded it. Whether of 
the land or the sea, the inhabitants are all His creatures, 
subjects of His laws, and agents of His economy. The 
sea, therefore, we may safely infer, has its offices and 
duties to perform; so, may we infer, have its currents, 
and so, too, its inhabitants; consequently, he who under- 



HIS PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY OF THE SEA 71 

takes to study its phenomena must cease to regard it as 
a waste of waters. He must look upon it as a part of that 
exquisite machinery by which the harmonies of nature 
are preserved, and then he will begin to perceive the 
developments of order and the evidences of design; 
these make it a most beautiful and interesting subject 
for contemplation". 

This idea of divine order and design occurs again and 
again in the book like the motive in a piece of music; 
in fact, Maury, though he did not formally enter the 
church until late in life, was a very religious man and 
well read in the Bible, quotations from which appear in 
his writings by the dozen. He had very definite ideas 
about the relation betwen science and the Bible, and 
declared that it was his rule never to forget who was the 
Author of the great volume which Nature spreads out 
before men, and always to remember that the same 
Being was the author of the book which revelation holds 
forth for contemplation. It was his opinion that, though 
the works were entirely different, their records were 
equally true, and that when they bear upon the same 
point, as they occasionally do, it would be impossible 
for them to contradict each other. If the two cannot 
be reconciled, the fault therefore is in man's weakness 
and blindness in interpreting them aright. 

To return to the * 'Physical Geography of the Sea", the 
chapter on the atmosphere contains many noteworthy 
passages such as the following: ". . . The atmosphere 
is something more than a shoreless ocean, at the bottom 
of which he (man) creeps along. It is an envelope or 
covering for the dispersion of light and heat over the 
surface of the earth; it is a sewer into which, with every 
breath we draw, we cast vast quantities of dead animal 



72 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

matter; it is a laboratory for purification, in which that 
matter is recompounded, and wrought again into whole- 
some and healthful shapes; it is a machine for pumping 
up all the rivers from the sea, and conveying the waters 
from their fountains on the ocean to their sources in the 
mountains; it is an inexhaustible magazine, marvellously 
adapted for many benign and beneficent pur- 
poses. . . . To evaporate water enough annually from 
the ocean to cover the earth, on the average, five feet 
with rain ; to transport it from one zone to another ; and 
to precipitate it in the right places, at suitable times, 
and in the proportions due, is one of the offices of the 
grand atmospheric machine. This water is evaporated 
principally from the torrid zone. Supposing it all to 
come thence, we shall have, encircling the earth, a belt 
of ocean three thousand miles in breadth, from which 
this atmosphere evaporates a layer of water annually 
sixteen feet in depth. And to hoist up as high as the 
clouds, and lower again all the water in a lake sixteen 
feet deep, and three thousand miles broad, and twenty- 
four thousand long, is the yearly business of this invisible 
machinery. What a powerful engine is the atmosphere ! 
and how nicely adjusted must be all the cogs, and wheels, 
and springs, and compensations of this exquisite piece of 
machinery, that it never wears out nor breaks down, nor 
fails to do its work at the right time, and in the right 
way". 

One other selection, from the chapter on 'The Salts of 
the Sea", will be sufficient as illustrative material. 
"Take for example", he writes, "the coral islands, 
reefs, beds, and atolls, with which the Pacific Ocean is 
studded and garnished. They were built up of materials 
which a certain kind of insect quarried from the sea 



HIS PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY OF THE SEA 73 

water. The currents of the sea ministered to this little 
insect — they were its hod carriers. When fresh supplies 
of solid matter were wanted for the coral rock upon which 
the foundations of the Polynesian Islands were laid, 
those hod carriers brought them in unfailing streams of 
sea water, loaded with food and building materials for 
the coralline. The obedient currents thread the widest 
and deepest seas. They never fail to come at the right 
time, nor refuse to go; for, unless the currents of the sea 
were employed to carry off from this insect the waters 
that have been emptied by it of their lime, and to bring 
to it others charged with more, it is evident the little 
creature would have perished for want of food long before 
its task was half completed. But for currents, it would 
have been impaled in a nook of the very drop of water 
in which it was spawned ; for it would soon have secreted 
the lime contained in this drop of water, and then, 
without the ministering aid of currents to bring it more, 
it would have perished for the want of food for itself and 
materials for its edifice; and thus, but for the benign 
currents which took this exhausted water away, there 
we perceive this emptied drop would have remained, not 
only as the grave of the little architect, but as a monu- 
ment in attestation of the shocking monstrosity that 
there had been a failure in the sublime system of ter- 
restrial adaptations — ^that the sea had not been adapted 
by its Creator to the well-being of all its inhabitants. 
Now we do know that its adaptations are suited to all the 
wants of every one of its inhabitants — to the wants of 
the coral insect as well as to those of the whale. Hence 
we say we know that the sea has its system of circulation, 
for it transports materials for the coral rock from one 
part of the world to another; its currents receive them 



74 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

from the rivers, and hand them over to the little mason 
for the structure of the most stupendous works of solid 
masonry that man has ever seen — the coral islands of the 
sea". 

The contemporary reviews of Maury's "Physical 
Geography of the Sea" gave unqualified praise to his 
style. The Revue des Deux Mondes declared, "Often 
indeed his powerful imagination makes of Maury a 
veritable poet, and his descriptions recall involuntarily 
those stories of the 'Thousand and One Nights', which 
charmed our childhood, where Gulnare pictures for her 
husband marvellously the mysterious realms of the 
profundities under the sea". Humboldt considered it an 
epoch-making book, and the French scientist Jomard 
congratulated Maury upon the accomplishment of a 
"work so difficult, so useful, so laborious", which he 
regarded as a true present to physicists, geographers, 
and navigators as well as to the commerce of all nations. 
The Blackwood'' s Edinburgh Magazine joined in the 
hymn of praise with the opinion that "the good that 
Maury has done, in awakening the powers of observation 
of the officers of the Royal and mercantile navies of 
England and America is incalculable", and added that 
such researches were exercising the most beneficial effect 
in improving and elevating the minds of seamen every- 
where. 

Some of Maury's theories, however, were early ques- 
tioned, especially the one regarding the causes of ocean 
currents such as the Gulf Stream. He contended that 
they were set in motion by differences in specific gravity 
of the water in different places as caused by a disparity 
in temperature or in saltness. Sir John Herschel had 
considered that the currents were due entirely to the 



HIS PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY OF THE SEA 75 

Trade Winds; and C. Wyville Thomson, who thought 
that Maury's theory was ambiguous, was an adherent 
to the Herschel theory, though his colleague Carpenter 
was of a different opinion still. "It is now known, how- 
ever," writes Sir Willam A. Herdman,i "that the Gulf 
Stream is not an independent phenomenon, but is a part 
of the general system of surface circulation of the ocean, 
a system in which the currents, diverted to the east, as 
a result of the rotation of the earth in their course 
northwards from the equator, flow clockwise in the North 
Atlantic around a central, relatively calm area, the Sar- 
gasso Sea, in which seaweeds and other floating objects 
accumulate". 

When one considers how science develops, one theory 
changing or giving place entirely to another as new and 
wider research is made, such criticisms as those above 
do not lessen at all the estimation of Maury's greatness 
as a pioneer scientist in a comparatively new field of 
investigation, nor do they at all rob him of the right to 
be called the world's first great oceanographer. This 
is the opinion of a recent authority on the science of the 
sea, who writes, "Marine meteorology may be said to 
date from the time of M. F. Maury, U. S. Navy, whose 
'Physical Geography of the Sea', though out of date as 
to facts and somewhat fantastic as to theories, remains 
a model book of popular science, written by a man who 
was possessed of all the knowledge of his time, and afire 
with the enthusiasm of research". ^ 

Maury's researches in oceanography led to his con- 

^ "Founders of Oceanography", p. 175. 

2 From "Chapter I, The Air" by Hugh Robert Mill and D. Wilson Barker in 
Science of the Sea, edited by G. Herbert Fowler for the Challenger Society, 
1912, p. 3. 



76 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

nection with one of the most romantic and far-reaching 
scientific achievements of the century, the laying of the 
first Atlantic telegraph cable. Mention has already 
been made of the deep-sea soundings undertaken, under 
his direction, by American naval officers during the 
years 1849-1853. With the data furnished by these 
officers and by some others who were not engaged solely 
in sounding operations, Maury was enabled in the 
autumn of 1852 to construct an orographic map of the 
North Atlantic Ocean and to give a profile representing 
a vertical section of its bottom between America and 
Europe near the parallel of 39° north latitude. This 
showed the existence of what he called "the telegraphic 
plateau". 

Up to this time no specimens of deep-sea ooze had been 
brought up from the bottom, and each sounding involved 
the loss of all the twine used as well as the cannon ball 
attached to it; and besides there was some uncertainty 
each time as to whether the bottom had really been 
reached. Fortunately, Lieutenant John Mercer Brooke, 
who was then at the Observatory, invented a simple 
but effective contrivance known as "Brooke's deep-sea 
sounding apparatus", which was well adapted to Maury's 
needs. The instrument was used by Lieutenant Berry- 
man in the Dolphin during the year 1853 with great 
success, and the specimens which he obtained from the 
bottom were forwarded by Maury to Professor Bailey 
of West Point, for examination under the microscope. 
Upon examination the specimens were found not to 
contain a particle of sand or gravel mixed with them, 
but to be mites of sea-shells as perfect and unworn as when 
they were alive. This suggested to Maury the idea that 
there were no abrading forces at play upon the bottom 



HIS PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY OF THE SEA 77 

of the deep sea, and that, if an electric cord were ever 
laid down upon the telegraphic plateau, there it would 
remain without anything to chafe or wear it except 
alone the tooth of time. 

Accordingly, when in February, 1854 the projectors 
of the Atlantic Telegraph inquired of Maury as to the 
practicability of submerging the cable, he was able to 
reply as follows: ''From Newfoundland to Ireland the 
distance between the nearest points is about sixteen 
hundred miles, and the bottom of the sea between the 
two places is a plateau, which seems to have been placed 
there especially for the purpose of holding the wires of a 
submarine telegraph and of keeping them out of harm's 
way. It is neither too deep nor too shallow; yet it is 
so deep that the wires, being once landed, will remain 
forever beyond the reach of vessels' anchors, icebergs, 
and drift of any kind, and so shallow that the wires may 
be readily lodged upon the bottom. The depth of this 
plateau is quite regular, gradually increasing from the 
shores of Newfoundland to the depth of from fifteen 
hundred to two thousand fathoms as you approach the 
other side. Whether it be better to lead the wires from 
Newfoundland or Labrador is not now the question; 
nor do I pretend to consider the question as to the possi- 
bility of finding a time calm enough, the sea smooth 
enough, a wire long enough, and a ship big enough to 
carry and lay a coil of^ wire 1600 miles in length. I 
simply address myself at this time to the question in so 
far as the bottom of the sea is concerned ; and as for that, 
the greatest practical difficulty will, I apprehend, be 
found after reaching soundings at either end of the line, 
and not in the deep-sea. A wire laid across from either 
of the above-mentioned places on this side would pass 



78 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

to the north of the Grand Banks and rest on that beauti- 
ful plateau to which I have alluded, and where the water 
of the sea appears to be as quiet and as completely at 
rest as it is at the bottom of a mill-pond. Therefore, so 
far as the bottom of the deep-sea between Newfoundland 
or the mouth of the St. Lawrence and Ireland is con- 
cerned, the practicability of a submarine telegraph 
across the Atlantic is proved". 

Maury first began in November, 1853 to correspond 
with Cyrus W. Field, one of the prime movers in the 
enterprise, and soon thereafter he met him personally. 
In the following year, Field invited Maury to become 
financially connected with the submarine telegraph, but 
this was declined on the grounds that he could not then 
be a disinterested adviser of the company. Field came 
to Maury often, sometimes every day for weeks at a time, 
to consult as to the size and material for the cable, 
which according to Field's first estimate was large 
enough, Maury playfully said, for the young whales to 
amuse themselves romping over it. Maury also devised 
a plan for making, coiling, and laying down the cable; 
and when somewhat later Field wrote asking on behalf 
of the company in regard to the best route and time for 
laying it, Maury with the help of his assistants con- 
sulted the results of 260,000 days of observations at sea 
and replied that the most propitious time for their under- 
taking would be either the last of July or the first of 
August, and that the steamer with the western end of 
the telegraphic cord on board would be less liable than 
the other to encounter a gale. 

Field greatly appreciated Maury's advice, and invited 
him and his wife and two daughters to go on an excursion 



HIS PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY OF THE SEA 79 

in the summer of 1855 to witness the laying of that part 
of the cable between Newfoundland and Cape Breton. 
He also gave permission that the National Observatory- 
should be the first to use the telegraph to determine 
longitude across the Atlantic. In giving this assurance, 
Field wrote of the great help which Maury was rendering 
in "illuminating the path for the lightning". 

In the year 1856, Lieutenant Berryman in the Arctic 
made soundings from St. Johns, Newfoundland to 
Queenstown, Ireland, both on the outward and home- 
ward passages. But these soundings were very care- 
lessly made, and finally had to be declared worthless by 
Maury. In the summer of the following year Lieutenant 
Dayman, Royal Navy went over the same course in the 
Cyclops and made satisfactory soundings, which con- 
firmed Maury's earlier statements as to the existence 
of the telegraphic plateau. 

The company met with many discouragements in the 
laying of the cable. An unsuccessful attempt was made 
in the summ.er of 1857, and three, other failures followed 
the next year. But perseverance finally had its reward ; 
the U. S. Steamer Niagara and H. B. M. Steamer 
Agamemnon, after having m.et in mid-ocean and joined 
cables, set out for opposite shores where they arrived 
at Trinity Bay and Valentia Harbor, respectively, about 
the fifth of August, 1858. There was great rejoicing on 
both sides of the Atlantic, and a great banquet was 
given in Field's honor by the city of New York at the 
Metropolitan Hotel on September 2, 1858. In his ad- 
dress on that occasion. Field referred to the many to 
whom he was indebted and mentioned "those never-to- 
be-forgotten philosophers Lieutenant Maury, Professor 



80 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

Morse, Professor Faraday, Professor Bache, and Pro- 
fessor W. Thomson, who have rendered more efficient 
aid without receiving any compensation". ^ 

In October of the same year, the telegraph ceased to 
operate because of faulty insulation. It appears that 
the company had not carefully followed Maury's advice 
as to the size of the cable, and he had not himself been 
sanguine of success. After the failure, he contended 
that all that was needed was a cable heavy enough to 
sink with its own weight, and that there was no need for 
the iron wire which was wound round the gutta-percha 
that would itself be impervious to decay, that the strain 
of weight was all on the inner core of copper and had 
thus caused the trouble, that the iron wire on the out- 
side might have interfered with the electric current, and 
that one large conducting wire instead of the seven 
threads woven together would have been better. But 
he added that he had no doubt as to the ultimate success 
of a telegraph across the Atlantic. Because of the Civil 
War, however, this was not to be accomplished until 
July, 1866; and as will be seen later, circumstances were 
then such as to prevent Maury from having any part in 
the final successful culmination of the project to which 
he had given so much thought and valuable assistance. 

Maury's researches in the science of the sea could not, 
perhaps, have been so fruitful in practical achievements, 
had there not been at this time such a widespread desire 
to learn more about the ocean. In America, it was a 
veritable age of geographical investigation and dis- 

' There is a tradition that Field said in this speech: "I am a man of few 
words: Maury furnished the brains, England gave the money, and I did the 
work." But diligent search has failed to discover any authority for the state- 
ment. 



HIS PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY OF THE SEA 81 

covery. In addition to the Exploring Expedition under 
Wilkes, which spent three years and ten months in 
exploring the islands of the Pacific and established the 
fact of the existence of the Antarctic continent, there 
were many others of the same nature. Lieutenant 
William Francis Lynch, in 1847-1848, led an expedition 
which surveyed the Dead Sea; in 1850-1851, Lieutenant 
Edward J. De Haven commanded a squadron which 
went into the Arctic in search of Sir John Franklin, and 
though unsuccessful in finding the English explorer, he 
made important scientific discoveries; Commander Cad- 
walader Ringgold, during 1853-1854, and then Com- 
mander John Rodgers, in the following years 1' 55-1' 56, 
explored and surveyed Bering Strait, the North Pacific 
Ocean, and the China Seas; and in 1853, Dr. F^lisl.a K. 
Kane, U. S. Navy led another expedition into the Arctic 
regions in search of Franklin and off Greenland reached 
a stretch of water which he thought confirmed Maury's 
theory as to an open polar sea. Between 1848 and 1852, 
Lieutenant John P. Gilliss conducted an astronomical 
expedition to Chile, Lieutenant Archibald McRae tra- 
versed the Pampas from Chile to Buenos Ayres, Lieu- 
tenant Isaac G. Strain explored the Isthmus of Darien, 
Lieutenant Richard L. Page investigated the La Plata 
and its tributaries, and Lieutenant William Lewis 
Herndon made his famous trip across South America 
from the west coast to ^the headwaters of the Amazon 
and then down that stream to the Atlantic. Further- 
more, it was at about this same time that Commodore 
Matthew Calbraith Perry went to Japan and by skillful 
diplomacy opened up that country to western civiliza- 
tion. 

Maury simply reveled in the results of these various 



82 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

explorations, and his writings are filled with references 
to them. He knew all the explorers personally, and 
furnished many of them with helpful advice and en- 
couragement in their undertakings, — especially Kane, 
De Haven, Lynch, and Herndon. Dr. Kane wished to 
name the open polar sea after Maury; but he waived the 
honor and wrote to Kane that he should yield to his 
friends and let "his name go upon the waters", and to- 
day it is known as Kane Basin. 

Maury's investigations into the habits and nature of 
whales had led him to conclude that there was really a 
Northwest Passage as well as open water about the 
North Pole. The former theory was proved by Com- 
mander McClure of H. M. S. Investigator , July 31, 1850 
to April 6, 1853, when he passed from west to east 
through the northern waters, and settled the question. 
As to the polar sea, it is interesting to note in passing 
that only recently two explorers of the air, Byrd and 
Amundson, both verified the truth of Maury's theory. 

As regards the Antarctic regions, Maury called upon 
the nations of the world to cooperate in sending an 
expedition there. "Ho for the South Pole" was his 
slogan. "It is enough for me", he wrote, "when con- 
templating the vast extent of that unknown region, to 
know that it is a part of the surface of our planet, and to 
remember that the earth was made for man; that all 
knowledge is profitable; that no discoveries have con- 
ferred more honor and glory upon the age in which they 
were made, or been more beneficial to the world than 
geographical discoveries; and that never were nations 
so well prepared to undertake Antarctic exploration as 
are those that I now solicit". Though the Civil War 
interfered with the carrying out of plans for the explor- 



HIS PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY OF THE SEA 83 

ing of that portion of the globe, yet Maury's name 
deserves to be remembered among those whose continued 
interest in this enterprise finally led to the conquering 
of the South Pole. 

Another contribution which Maury made was the 
laying down of lanes for steamers in the North Atlantic. 
The idea originated with R. B. Forbes of Boston, but 
was worked out scientifically by Maury. In the year 
1855, at the instigation of a board of underwriters of 
New York, who paid for its cost, he published a chart 
illustrating what he called Ocean Lanes. To prepare 
this chart he studied the logs of 46,000 days of observa- 
tions of the wind and weather of that part of the North 
Atlantic. Two tracks, or lanes, twenty miles wide, 
were laid down, to the more northern of which he pro- 
posed to confine the steamers westward bound, while 
the eastward bound vessels were to use the other, 
situated from one to ten degrees further south. 
Although the Secretary of the Navy immediately or- 
dered the ships of the navy to observe these lanes, they 
were not generally adopted by the shipping of the world 
until about thirty-six years after they were formulated, 
and it was not until 1898 that all of the transatlantic 
steamship companies consented in a written agreement 
to use them. After a dispassionate investigation of the 
lanes, they said that they were impressed with the 
patience and researches that Maury must have made to 
have laid down such excellent paths, and they recognized 
that, had the highways been followed earlier, the great 
majority of the accidents which had befallen vessels 
in the North Atlantic mighl have been avoided. 

Maury, then, was not merely a theorizer without the 
power of applying his ideas to the practical needs of men. 



84 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

His greatness consisted in his being a man of vision and 
imagination, and at the same time a man of tremendous 
industry who was willing to toil endlessly that his 
theories might be made practical realities. This aim of 
unselfish service to humanity was displayed in all his 
researches in the science of the sea, from which came the 
works upon which his claim to fame chiefly rests. These 
were "The Wind and Current Charts", "SaiUng Direc- 
tions", and "The Physical Geography of the Sea". 
That such a claim is no idle one is borne out by the 
•works themselves as well as by their influence upon all 
succeeding marine research, and it was the realization 
of this fact that led the Secretary of the Navy recently 
to give to the oceanographic research now being planned 
the name "Maury United States Naval Oceanographic 
Research". 




Courtesy of ''The Journal of American History," Vol. IV, Number 3 (1910). 

Set of Silver Medals Presented to Maury by Pope Pius IX 
See page 65 




Courtesy of "The Journal of American History," Vol. IV, Number 3 {1910). 

Medals Bestowed upon Maury 

Gold medals bestowed upon Maury by the rulers of Sweden, Prussia, Hol- 
land, Austria, Sardinia, and France, the Republic of Bremen, and the Paris 
Universal Exhibition of 1855. See page 65. 



CHAPTER VII 
His Extra-Professional Interests 

During the many years he spent at the Naval Observa- 
tory, Maury was by no means a narrow-minded 
specialist, as can be readily seen by a consideration of 
the wide range of his interests, which extended from the 
planting of sunflowers to keep malaria away from the 
Observatory to speculations as to the navigation of the 
air and a curious machine that was a kind of combination 
of phonograph and telephone. Before going forward 
with the story of his life, it would be well, therefore, to 
pause and consider some of these extra-professional 
activities that he was interested in. 

Maury's interest in land meteorology had some con- 
nection, indeed, with his particular field of research; 
and in the beginning this was a part of his plan for a 
universal system of meteorological observations. But 
the opposition of Great Britain led him to withdraw it 
from the program of matters to be considered at the 
Brussels Conference, under the impression that a half of 
a loaf was better than no loaf at all. Upon his return 
to America after the conference, he began almost im- 
mediately to advocate the calling of another conference 
to consider land meteorology. As to the connection 
between the meteorology of the land and the sea he wrote 
in his ''Sailing Directions" of 1855, "The great atmos- 
pherical ocean, at the bottom of which we are creeping 
along, and the laws of which touch so nearly the well- 
being of the whole human family, embraces the land as 
well as the sea, and neither those laws nor the movement 

85 



86 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

and phenomena of the atmosphere can be properly stud- 
ied or thoroughly investigated until observations, both 
by land and sea, shall enable us to treat the atmosphere 
as a whole". 

The lukewarmness of Great Britain toward such a 
conference, and the Crimean War into which both that 
country and France entered, interfered with its meeting. 
But Maury continued to advocate a universal system of 
meteorological observations for the United States. He 
declared that it would cost no more to extend the system 
to the land than it had cost to spread it over the sea, and 
that, should it at any time be judged expedient so to 
enlarge the field of his researches as to include agriculture 
as well as commercial meteorology, he was ready at the 
bidding of the Department to submit a detailed plan 
for its consideration. The first fruits of his system of 
observations, which would be reported daily by telegraph 
and announced in the newspapers, would be, he said, 
that the farmers, merchants, and public in general 
would know with something like certainty the kind of 
weather to be expected, one, two, or more days in 
advance. 

Maury addressed the United States Agricultural 
Society on the subject in Washington on January 10, 
1856; and the question having been carried to the Agri- 
cultural Committee of the Senate, a bill was drawn in 
April to appropriate $20,000 to establish a system of 
daily observations. In June, Maury thought that Con- 
gress was disposed to enlarge on the idea and establish an 
Agricultural Bureau, but in August he wrote sadly that 
political events of a different nature had turned public 
attention away from meteorology and the advancement 



HIS EXTRA-PROFESSIONAL INTERESTS 87 

of science and directed the legislation of Congress to 
other subjects. 

The bill was still pending, however, in the Senate 
early in 1857, and the details of Maury's plan were 
presented in Senator Harlan's report, made on behalf of 
the Committee on Agriculture. The following extract 
from this report will indicate to what extent those who 
afterwards established the United States Weather 
Bureau were indebted to Maury's plan: 'Tt is believed 
that the Superintendent of the Observatory can obtain 
the necessary cooperation to enable him to subject the 
atmosphere to this system of research by an appeal to 
the farmers similar to that made to the mariners, if the 
Government will furnish appropriate instruments and 
defray the expense of transmitting this intelligence to the 
Hydrographical Office. In order that these observations 
might be reliable, the instruments with which they are to 
be made must be correct. An appropriation of a small 
sum of money would be necessary for the purchase of 
a few standard sets, to be distributed among the states 
and territories, for use and comparison, under suitable 
regulation to be prescribed by the Secretary of the Navy. 
It would be highly desirable, also, to be able to receive 
from all parts of the country daily reports by telegraph. 
In this way, the condition of the atmosphere in every 
part of the country, the presence of a storm in any 
quarter, its direction, its force, and the rapidity of its 
march could be known at every point any hour of the 
day; simultaneous reports from the various stations of 
the character of the weather, being received and com- 
bined at the central office, could not fail to afford results 
of the highest interest and advantage to every industrial 



88 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

pursuit. Storms, having their origin in one part of the 
world and taking up their Hne of march for another, may 
be thus narrowly watched by the mariner in communica- 
tion with the land, in many instances for days before 
they would reach his shipping. Being forewarned, he 
could adopt the necessary means to evade their fury. 
The same intelligence thus communicated to the farmer 
and out-door laborer would be equally useful in its 
results. Every intelligent farmer, who is willing to note 
his observations, would become a sentinel on the watch- 
tower to admonish his fellow-laborers in the fields, as 
well as his co-laborers on the sea engaged in carrying his 
produce to distant markets, of approaching foul weather 
and consequent danger; and it is confidently maintained 
by those whose opinions are entitled to the greatest 
weight that with such a system of observation the laws 
that govern the course of those storms would soon be so 
well known that, in most cases, shipmasters and out -door 
laborers could be forewarned of their approach. Lieu- 
tenant Maury has also suggested that by mapping the 
skies, for example, of the United States, and adopting 
a system of signs and symbols, these telegraphic observa- 
tions may be so projected on this map as to convey to 
the observer at a glance a knowledge of the appearance 
of the sky all over the whole country any hour in the 
day; and that by this means the change of the appear- 
ance of the sky, and subsequent changes of weather all 
over a continent, may be seen and studied from day to 
day; from which it is believed that science would deduce 

results of the highest importance It has been 

suggested by Lieutenant Maury, and approved by your 
memorialists that the number of observers may be mul- 
tiplied indefinitely by inviting the farmers, like the 



HIS EXTRA-PROFESSIONAL INTERESTS 89 

mariners at sea, to make voluntary observations of the 
weather, crops, soil, and flora, and report regularly to a 
common superintendent, by whom they also shall be 
discussed and classified". 

This bill failed to become a law, and Maury's am- 
bitious but reasonable plan for a system of land meteor- 
ology came to grief. The defeat of the measure was 
brought about largely through the opposition of Pro- 
fessor Henry, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, 
who considered that Maury's plan would be a rival to 
that proposed by him for the Smithsonian. Maury 
bitterly regretted this opposition, and in an address 
delivered in October, 1859 before the North Alabama 
Agricultural and Mechanical Association at Decatur he 
said, "Some years ago I proposed, you recollect, a system 
of agricultural meteorology for farmers, and of daily 
weather reports by telegraph from all parts of the 
country for the benefit of mankind. The Smithsonian 
Institution and the Agricultural Bureau of the Patent 
Ofiice stole this idea and attempted to carry it out, but 
with w^hat success let silence tell. Take notice now that 
this plan of crop reports is 'my thunder', and if you see 
some one in Washington running away with it there, 
recollect if you please where the lightning came from". 

Maury continued to agitate this question by both 
letters and public addresses particularly among the 
people of the Great Lakes region and of the South, until 
the outbreak of the Civil War. This put an end for the 
time being to Maury's attempts to establish a system of 
land meteorology in the United States and to his en- 
deavors to bring together another international confer- 
ence at which a scheme could be devised for making 
universal land and sea meteorological observations. 



90 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

But after the war was over, he returned to the question, 
as will be noted later, with his characteristic persistence 
and energy. 

In 1848 Maury's mind was intent on the shortening 
of communications by sea, and out of that problem grew 
his interest in the first trans-continental railroad. His 
opinion at first was that the most direct route to China 
would be by rail from Memphis to Monterey on the 
Pacific, and thence by great circle sailing by way of the 
Fox Islands which were convenient for coaling stations. 
He enthusiastically wrote that, if there were a canal 
already cut from Chagres to Panama, the circuity of the 
route and the loss of time compared with what was to be 
gained by the proposed line from Memphis to Monterey 
would in time cause the abandonment of the former and 
the completion of the latter. Meanwhile the gold rush 
to California had begun, and Maury then decided that 
both a railroad across the continent and a canal, or 
railroad, across the Isthmus of Panama should be con- 
structed. As president of the Memphis Convention of 
representatives from fourteen states, which met October 
23, 1849, he urged both projects, and eventually each of 
the two routes was made available as a highway of trans- 
portation between the East and the West. 

In connection with Maury's advocacy of the Isthmian 
route, there was a story told by his nephew which throws 
light upon his uncle's sterling character. It appeared 
that some papers of his upon the advantages of a route 
to the East by way of the Isthmus attracted much 
attention, and a Northeim firm wrote him a letter, 
enclosing a check for $500 in token of approbation of 
his views which strongly promoted the interests of their 
business. He was asked to continue his advocacy of 



HIS EXTRA-PROFESSIONAL INTERESTS 91 

that route, and was assured that the enclosure was but a 
mere earnest of what they would pay for his continued 
support. "Please to look at this", Maury said; "these 
people seem to think money the chief object of all 
endeavor". He returned the check then with a cour- 
teous note of thanks explaining that he could not admit 
personal interest into his discussions of measures for the 
general good of the people. 

Another question of great importance, to which Maury 
gave his voice and pen for many years, was the financial 
and maritime interests of the South and West. As 
early as January, 1839, he wrote an article for the 
Southern Literary Messenger on "Direct Trade with the 
South", in which he called upon the people of that 
section to establish a line of steam packets between 
Norfolk and Havre. In the year 1845, he wrote for the 
same magazine his "Letters to Clay", in which he ad- 
vocated the establishment of a dockyard, a school for 
apprentices, and a naval academy at Memphis, the con- 
struction of a canal from the upper Mississippi to the 
Lakes, the establishment of a naval base at Pensacola 
as well as at some other point on the Atlantic coast south 
of Norfolk, and the placing of fortifications at Key West 
and the Dry Tortugas for the protection of the Gulf. 
These measures he continued to advocate in season and 
out of season. 

After Congress passed on June 15, 1844, an act for 
establishing a naval dockyard and depot at Memphis, 
Maury concentrated his batteries upon the need for a 
canal to connect the Mississippi with Lake Michigan 
through the Illinois River. He claimed that this would 
be of great benefit to commerce in time of peace, and 
that, if war with England should come, the United 



92 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

States would then be prepared to meet her halfway. 
"Let this work be completed", he added, "and it will 
be a dragon's tooth planted in the West to bring forth 
for the defense of the country a harvest of steam-clad 
warriors, ever brave, always ready". 

This question he took up again at the meeting of the 
Memphis Convention of Southern and Western States, 
on November 12, 1845, where he was the veritable 
spokesman of those two sections. Another important 
matter v/hich he advocated at this convention was what 
was called "A Warehousing System and Direct Trade 
with the South". This, he said, would foster shipping 
for Southern ports, enable ships to be loaded both ways 
and thus make cheaper rates, and prevent trade in high- 
dutied articles from concentrating in New York where 
there was the greatest amount of ready capital on hand. 
Other measures which Maury urged at this convention 
were the following: bakeries at Chicago for supplying 
better bread for the navy, a school of engineers at Mem- 
phis, mail and snag-boats as a nucleus for a river fleet 
in time of war, river marks or gauges as an aid to safer 
navigation, the deepening of the river below New Orleans 
at Southwest Pass, more lighthouses on the Florida and 
the Gulf Coast, and a monthly mail to Oregon. 

In 1851, at the request of the Secretary of the Navy, 
Maury wrote a report on "Fortifications" to be referred 
to the House Committee on Military Affairs. In this 
report he advocated for coast defense what he called 
"a locomotive battery or flying artillery" to protect 
cities from the "Great Guns of Big Ships"; heavy forti- 
fications at Key West, on the Dry Tortugas, and perhaps 
on Ship and Cat Islands; and the completion of railroad 
connection with the Pacific and the beginning there of 



HIS EXTR.\-PROFESSIONAL INTERESTS 93 

the nucleus of a navy. He was opposed to floating 
batteries, but favored twenty or twenty-five steam 
men-of-war as a home squadron and thought some 
provision should be made against surprise on the Lakes. 
In closing, he declared, "The ocean front of the United 
States alone is greater in extent than the ocean front of 
the whole of Europe; therefore, like action to the orator, 
a navy to us is the first, second, and third chief requisite 
to any effective system of national defense". 

The same year Maury turned again to the "Commer- 
cial Prospects of the South", which he made the subject 
of an address before the Virginia Mercantile Convention 
at Richmond. In this he called attention to what might 
have happened if Norfolk had become the terminus of a 
French line of steam packets to Havre, as he had sug- 
gested some dozen years before. Now, he said, the 
South must look toward the south; in view of the im- 
portance of "our Mediterranean" into which big rivers 
flow that are the arteries of much commerce, and because 
of the potential riches of the Amazon which will be 
vastly increased b}^ the construction of a canal or rail- 
road across the Isthmus, a line of steamers from Norfolk, 
Charleston, or Savannah to the mouth of the Amazon 
should at once be established. This enterprise, together 
with the need for building railroads in the South, was 
constantly in Maury's mind and often became a subject 
of correspondence down to the beginning of the Civil 
War. 

Maury seems to have become almost as ready a 
speaker as he was a writer, and as his fame grew he was 
frequently called upon to speak on scientific questions 
and large problems of a commercial nature. In 1846, 
he addressed the Philodemic Society at the commence- 



94 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

ment exercises of Georgetown College in Washington. 
In the course of his speech he lauded the study of science 
in this fashion: "Beauties far more lovely, poetry far 
more sublime, lessons inexpressibly more eloquent and 
instructive than any which the classic lore of ancient 
Greece or Rome ever afforded are now to be seen and 
gathered in the walks of science". In 1855 he spoke to 
the Jefferson and Washington Literary Societies of the 
University of Virginia, beginning with what he referred 
to as "sailing directions". "There are some here", he 
declared, "who though not seamen are nevertheless 
about to become masters of their own acts, and who are 
about to try the voyage of life upon a troubled sea. I 
have been some little time on that voyage; and it is so 
that, whenever I see a young man relying upon his own 
resources and setting out alonQs,upon this long voyage, 
my heart warms towards him* I always desire to range 
up alongside of him, to speak t€/^>y;:^i kindly, and whisper 
words of encouragement *n his ear". 

Then he told the yoi; g men that they should have 
ambition to do even bettor than their fathers had done ; 
that they should not lose sight of the welfare of the 
community and the prosperity of the commonwealth; 
and that they should give Virginia again her place of 
leadership among the states, and take away from the 
South the allegation that she is wanting in enterprise. 
He closed with the following rules of conduct: "What- 
ever ma}^ be the degree of success that I have met with 
in life, I attribute it, in a great measure, to the adoption 
of such rules. One was never to let the mind be idle 
for want of useful occupation, but always to have in 
reserve subjects of thought or study for the leisure 
moments and quiet hours of the night. When you read 



HIS EXTRA-PROFESSIONAL INTERESTS 95 

a book, let it be with the view to special information. 
The habits of mind to be thus attained are good, and the 
information useful. It is surprising how difficult one 
who attempts this rule finds it at first to provide himself 
with subjects for thought — to think of something that he 
does not know. In our ignorance our horizon is very 
contracted: mists, clouds, and darkness hang upon it, 
and self fills almost the entire view around, above, and 
below to the utmost verge. But as we study the laws of 
nature, and begin to understand about our own igno- 
rance, we find light breaking through, the horizon ex- 
panding, and self getting smaller and smaller. It is 
like climbing a mountain : every fact or fresh discovery 
is a step upward with an enlargement of the view, until 
the unknown and the mysterious become boundless 
— self infinitely small ; and the conviction comes upon us 
with a mighty force that we know nothing — that human 
knowledge is only a longing desire." In conclusion, he 
warned them against believing that they had finished 
their education on leaving the University, for they had 
merely cleared away the rubbish and prepared the foun- 
dations. If they ceased to study, they soon would forget 
what they had learned and mental retrogression would 
begin; for just as movement and progress were necessary 
aspects of life in the physical world so were rest and 
decay correlative terms in the mental and moral realms. 
Among the numerous addresses which he delivered 
during the decade preceding the Civil War, the most 
eloquent and significant was the one given on October 
10, 1860, at the laying of the corner stone of the Uni- 
versity of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee. For this 
occasion there were assembled eight bishops, two hun- 
dred presbyters, and five thousand people. In intro- 



96 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

ducing Maury, Bishop Otey, his old teacher and friend, 
referred to him as a distinguished fellow-citizen, whose 
labors in the cause of science have crowned his name 
with honor throughout the world and made him, in a 
manner, the property of all the nations, for the winds 
of Heaven and the waves of the sea had been made 
tributary by him to increasing the facilities of trade to 
every land and on every sea where commerce spreads her 
sails. 

Maury's address, which is quoted in its entirety as an 
example of his oratorical power, was as follows: "Ladies 
and Gentlemen: This greeting and the terms in which 
my old preceptor and early friend has brought me into 
this presence fill me with emotions difficult to utter. 
I thank you for your goodness. 

"Physical geography makes the whole world kin. Of 
all the departments in the domains of physical science, 
it is the most Christianizing. Astronomy is grand and 
sublime; but astronomy overpowers with its infinities, 
overwhelms with its immensities. Physical geography 
charms with its wonders, and delights with the benignity 
of its economy. Astronomy ignores the existence of 
man; physical geography confesses that existence, and 
is based on the Biblical doctrine that the earth was made 
for man. Upon no other theory can it be studied; upon 
no other theory can its phenomena be reconciled. The 
astronomer computes an ephemeris for his comets; pre- 
dicts their return; tells the masses of the planets, and 
measures by figures the distance of the stars. But 
whether stars, planets, or comets be peopled or not is in 
his arguments, theories, and calculations of no conse- 
quence whatever. He regards the light and heat of the 
sun as emanations — forces to guide the planets in their 



HIS EXTRA-PROFESSIONAL INTERESTS 97 

orbits, and light comets in their flight — nothing more. 
But the physical geographer, when he warms himself 
by the coal fire in winter, or studies by the light of the 
gas burner at night, recognizes in the light and heat 
which he then enjoys the identical light and heat which 
ages ago came from the sun, and which with provident 
care and hands benignant have been bottled away in the 
shape of a mineral and stored in the bowels of the earth 
for man's use, thence to be taken at his convenience, and 
liberated at will for his manifold purposes. 

"Here, in the schools which are soon to be opened, 
within the walls of this institution which we are preparing 
to establish in this wood, and the corner stone of which 
has just been laid, the masters of this newly ordained 
science will teach our sons to regard some of the common- 
est things as the most important agents in the physical 
economy of our planet. They are also mighty ministers 
of the Creator. Take this water" (holding up a glassful) 
"and ask the student of physical geography to explain 
a portion only of its multitudinous offices in helping to 
make the earth fit for man's habitation. He may recog- 
nize in it a drop of the very same which watered the 
Garden of Eden when Adam was there. Escaping 
thence through the veins of the earth into the rivers, 
it reached the sea; passing along its channels of circula- 
tion, it was conveyed far away by its currents to those 
springs in the ocean which feed the winds with vapor 
for rains among these mountains ; taking up the heat in 
these southern climes, where otherwise it would become 
excessive, it bottles it away in its own little vesicles. 
These are invisible; but rendering the heat latent and 
innocuous, they pass like sightless couriers of the air 
through their appointed channels, and arrive here in the 



98 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

upper sky. This mountain draws the heat from them; 
they are formed into clouds and condensed into rain, 
which, coming to the earth, make it 'soft with showers', 
causing the trees of the field to clap their hands, the 
valleys to shout, and the mountains to sing. Thus the 
earth is made to yield her increase, and the heart of man 
is glad. 

''Nor does the office of this cup of water in the physical 
economy end here. It has brought heat from the sea 
in the southern hemisphere to be set free here for the 
regulation of our climates ; it has ministered to the green 
plants, and given meat and drink to man and beast. 
It has now to cater among the rocks for the fish and in- 
sects of the sea. Eating away your mountains, it fills 
up the valleys, and then, loaded with lime and salts of 
various minerals, it goes singing and dancing and leap- 
ing back to the sea, owning man by the way as a task- 
master — turning mills, driving machinery, transporting 
merchandise for him — and finally reaching the ocean. 
It there joins the currents to be conveyed to its appointed 
place, which it never fails to reach in due time, with food 
in due quantities for the inhabitants of the deep, and 
with materials of the right kind to be elaborated in the 
workshops of the sea into pearls, corals, and islands — all 
for man's use. 

"Thus the right-minded student of this science is 
brought to recognize in the dewdrop the materials of 
which He who Valketh upon the wings of the wind' 
maketh His chariot. He also discovers in the raindrop 
a clue by which the Christian philosopher may be con- 
ducted into the very chambers from which the hills are 
watered. 

'T have been blamed by men of science, both in this 



HIS EXTRA-PROFESSIONAL INTERESTS 99 

country and in England, for quoting the Bible in con- 
firmation of the doctrines of physical geography. The 
Bible, they say, was not written for scientific purposes, 
and is therefore of no authority in matters of science. 
I beg pardon! The Bible is authority for everything 
it touches. What would you think of the historian who 
should refuse to consult the historical records of the 
Bible, because the Bible was not written for the purposes 
of history? The Bible is true and science is true. The 
agents concerned in the physical economy of our planet 
are ministers of His who made both it and the Bible. 
The records which He has chosen to make through the 
agency of these ministers of His upon the crust of the 
earth are as true as the records which, by the hands of 
His prophets and servants. He has been pleased to make 
in the Book of Life. They are both true; and when 
your men of science, with vain and hasty conceit, an- 
nounce the discovery of disagreement between them, 
rely upon it the fault is not with the Witness or His 
records, but with the 'worm' who essays to interpret 
evidence which he does not understand. 

"When I, a pioneer in one department of this beautiful 
science, discover the truths of revelation and the truths 
of science reflecting light one upon the other and each 
sustaining the other, how can I, as a truth-loving, 
knowledge-seeking man, fail to point out the beauty 
and to rejoice in its discovery? Reticence on such an 
occasion would be sin, and were I to suppress the emotion 
with which such discoveries ought to stir the soul, the 
waves of the sea would lift up their voice, and the very 
stones of the earth cry out against me. (Great ap- 
plause.) 

"As a student of physical geography, I regard the 



100 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

earth, sea, air, and water, as parts of a machine, pieces 
of mechanism not made with hands, but to which never- 
theless certain offices have been assigned in the terrestrial 
economy. It is good and profitable to seek to find out 
these offices, and point them out to our fellows; and 
when, after patient research, I am led to the discovery 
of any one of them, I feel with the astronomer of old 
as though I had 'thought one of God's thoughts' — and 
tremble. Thus as we progress with our science we are 
permitted now and then to point out here and there in 
the physical machinery of the earth a design of the Great 
Architect when He planned it all. 

"Take the little nautili. Where do the fragile crea- 
tures go? What directing hand guides them from sea 
to sea? What breeze fills the violet sails of their frail 
little craft, and by whose skill is it enabled to brave the 
sea and defy the fury of the gale? What mysterious 
compass directs the flotilla of these delicate and graceful 
argonauts? Coming down from the Indian Ocean, and 
arriving off the stormy cape, they separate — the one part 
steering for the Pacific, the other for the Atlantic Ocean. 
Soon the ephemeral life that animates these tiny navi- 
gators will be extinct; but the same power which cared 
for them in life now guides them in death, for though 
dead their task in the physical economy of our planet is 
not finished, nor have they ceased to afford instruction 
in philosophy. The frail shell is now to be drawn to 
distant seas by the lower currents. Like the leaf carried 
through the air by the wind, the lifeless remains descend 
from depth to depth by an insensible fall even to the 
appointed burial place on the bottom of the deep ; there 
to be collected into heaps and gathered into beds which 



HIS EXTRA-PROFESSIONAL INTERESTS 101 

at some day are to appear above the surface a storehouse 
rich with fertiUzing ingredients for man's use. Some 
day science will sound the depth to which this dead shell 
has fallen, and the little creature will perhaps afford 
solution for a problem a long time unsolved ; for it may 
be the means of revealing the existence of the submarine 
currents that have carried it off, and of enabling the 
physical geographer to trace out the secret paths of the 
sea. (Great applause). 

"Had I time, I might show how mountains, deserts, 
winds, and water, when treated by this beautiful science, 
all join in one universal harmony — for each one has its 
part to perform in the great concert of nature. (Re- 
newed applause). 

"The Church, ere physical geography had yet attained 
to the dignity of a science in our schools, and even before 
man had endowed it with a name, saw and appreciated 
its dignity, — the virtue of its chief agents. What have 
we heard chanted here in this grove by a thousand 
voices this morning? — A song of praise, such as these 
hills have not heard since the morning stars sang to- 
gether: — the Benedicite of our Mother Church, invoking 
the very agents whose workings and ofifices it is the 
business of the physical geographer to study and point 
out! In her services she teaches her children in their 
songs of praise to call upon certain physical agents, 
principals, in this newly established department of 
human knowledge, — upon the waters above the firma- 
ment; upon showers and dew; wind, fire, and heat; 
winter and summer; frost and cold; ice and snow; night 
and day; light and darkness; lightning and clouds; 
mountains and hills; green things, trees, and plants; 



102 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

whales, and all things that move in the waters; fowls of 
the air, with beasts and cattle, — to bless, praise, and 
magnify the Lord. (Tremendous applause.) 

**To reveal to man the offices of these agents in making 
the earth his fit dwelling place is the object of physical 
geography. Said I not well that of all the sciences 
physical geography is the most Christianizing in its 
influences?" (Long continued applause.) 

In addition to his occasional speeches, Maury also 
appeared on the regular lecture platform, where he 
delivered three different series of lectures. "My lot in 
life", he wrote, "is cast among those whose necessities 
compel them to stop with philosophy now and then and 
*court Dame Fortune's golden smile' until she vouchsafe 
a few extra centimes with which one may propitiate 
butcher and baker. Yielding to these necessities, I 
have occasionally to abandon the winds and the sea, and 
go digging in the hopes of finding a few of the 'roots of 
evil' wherewith to propitiate amiable creditors. These 
necessities have been pressing upon me, so I had to 
abandon everything and go out on a lecturing tour". 
In this connection, it is of interest to note that in addi- 
tion to his salary of $3,500 as Superintendent of the 
Observatory Maury received from Harper's as royalties 
on his "Physical Geography of the Sea" from $300 to 
$400 a year up to the Civil War. He was also paid 
considerable sums for his contributions to the magazines, 
such as the Southern Literary Messenger, from which 
according to his account book he received over $600 
from November, 1841 to December, 1842. Maury had, 
however, a large family of eight children, and their needs 
increased from year to year. 

His first series of regular lectures, six in number, was 



HIS EXTRA-PROFESSIONAL INTERESTS 103 

delivered before the Lowell Institute of Boston in 
December, 1856, on the general subject of 'The Winds 
and Currents of the Sea". The Boston Daily Evening 
Transcript reported the lectures and gave great praise 
to ''Professor" Maury; while one who heard him wrote 
in a personal letter, "It was a truly interesting lecture 
and from our citizens there comes forth one response, 
Excellent, Capital, The Lecture of the Season. It was no 
common audience, I assure you. Many were present 
who seldom attend evening lectures. All were enthusi- 
astic in their praise. I was told by men high in ofhce 
and the estimation of the community that it was the best 
lecture and the most interesting to them that they had 
ever heard. It was Lyceum night and the hour of 
commencement was postponed in order to give that 
audience a chance to hear, and they came and heard; 
notwithstanding they had been sitting an hour to 
another lecture, they sat still one and one-quarter hours 
more and so still that throughout the whole one might 
have heard a pin drop". 

For these lectures Maury was paid the sum of $500; 
and on the same tour he delivered ten other lectures in 
Massachusetts and New York at $50 a lecture. In 
New York he spoke at Albany, Rochester, Syracuse, and 
Buffalo. In the last-mentioned city two lectures were 
given on November 27 and 28, and the account of the 
first of these in the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser is 
most interesting. "We listened to Lieutenant Maury", 
it reports, "with unalloyed pleasure. His appearance 
is that of a kind-hearted, benevolent man of fifty; his 
forehead that of a philosopher, his eyes and lower face 
indicative of poetic sentiment. His delivery is neither 
good nor bad, but he found no difficulty in enchaining 



104 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

the attention of his audience, and few, we presume, cared 
much for the lack of oratorical effect. We had never 
given Lieutenant Maury credit for the power of poetical 
description which he manifested in this lecture. Beauti- 
fully written, rich in descriptive power and full of a 
sailor's love for his ship, and his fondness for strange 
scenes, we have rarely listened to a better specimen of 
'word painting' than that which referred to a western 
passage across the Pacific. But immediately after came 
a description of the climate of Valparaiso, equally vivid, 
and in his allusion to the stars of the Southern hemi- 
sphere even more eloquent — one saw that night sky, a 
vault of steel, the brilliant stars which shone upon its 
surface and the planets brighter still, seemingly swim- 
ming in mid air beneath them; and the Magellan clouds, 
Vents in the azure robe of night, through which one 
looked into the black profound of space beyond' ". 

On his next lecture tour, during November and Decem- 
ber, 1858, Maury was gone about a month; he traveled 
some five thousand miles and delivered twenty-five 
lectures, at the following places: Rochester, Buffalo, 
Cleveland, Ann Arbor, Chicago, Detroit, Kalamazoo, 
Indianapolis, Laporte, Cincinnati, Springfield, and St. 
Louis. The subjects that he discussed were: The 
Atlantic Telegraph, The Highways and Byways of the 
Sea, On Extending to the Lakes a System of Meteorolog- 
ical Observations for the Benefit of Lake Commerce and 
Navigation, On the Workshops and Harmonies of the 
Sea, and The Importance of a Careful Meteorological 
Survey of the Great North American Lakes. 

The various newspapers of these cities reported large 
and appreciative audiences, with many often turned 
away for lack of seats; and they invariably praised the 



HIS EXTRA-PROFESSIONAL INTERESTS 105 

lectures. For example, the Indianapolis Daily Sentinel 
declared, "(The subject) was presented in such a pleasing 
and attractive form, and the facts, the experiments, and 
the analogies from which his conclusions were drawn 
were stated so clearly and clothed so beautifully that it 
seemed to the hearer rather like the fanciful description 
of the poet than the details of experimental philosophy". 
The Cleveland Plain Dealer thus expressed its praise: 
"(His theme) was treated with a mastery of facts, an 
array of historical data, and a thoroughness and com- 
pleteness of detail and all with a clearness, vigor, and 
force of language highly instructive and deeply and 
powerfully interesting. Without any of the graces of 
oratory, or the beauties and effects of elocution, without 
even the charms of an agreeable delivery. Lieutenant 
Maury invested his subject with a degree of interest and 
power of attraction that was such as to challenge the 
admiration and rivet the attention of his auditors from 
the opening to the close". The tour was evidently a 
great success, but the exposure to the wintry storms so 
damaged Maury's health as to bring on an attack of 
rheumatic gout on his return home, a disease from which 
he continued to suffer off and on until his death fifteen 
years later. 

The following autumn, however, he was lecturing 
again, this time in Alabama and Tennessee. While in 
Nashville to address the State Agricultural Bureau, he 
was invited by the Tennessee Historical Society to de- 
liver in the Hall of the House of Representatives of the 
Capitol his lecture on "The Geography of the Sea". 
This was on October 12, 1859, and on the following day 
Maury visited the House while in session and was wel- 
comed by Speaker Whitthorne in the high-flown language 



106 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

which was popular at that day, as one who "has by his 
genius and his talents made himself the peer of earth's 
great men, and who by his wooing of the stars has made 
them to give forth speech and by his control of the winds 
of the sea has compelled their obedience to man and made 
them to become ministers of his happiness". 

All of this speaking and writing made Maury's name 
known very widely all over the United States, and it 
was but natural for some of his friends to think of him 
in connection with the Presidency. They believed that, 
if his adopted state, Tennessee, would heartily nominate 
him, not as a party man but as a broad-minded, public- 
spirited citizen, he could be easily elected, for his popu- 
larity was great with all who did not aspire to the 
leadership of some particular clique. But Maury did 
not like politics, and besides Fate had in store for him 
an entirely different future. However, in the light of 
his attitude toward slavery and the preservation of the 
Union it is interesting to speculate on how different the 
history of the United States might have been, had he 
been elevated to this high office. 




Matthew Fontaine Maury 

This painting, by E. Sophonisba Hergesheimer, was presented in 1923 
to the United States Naval Academy by the United Daughters of the Con- 
federacy, Atlanta Chapter, Georgia Division. It hangs over the entrance to 
the Maury Hall wing of the Academic Group of buildings. 



CHAPTER VIII 
His Treatment by the "Retiring Board" 

It must not be supposed that Maury spent only hal- 
cyon days during his long period of service at the Naval 
Observatory. When it is remembered that his contacts 
with men were extremely numerous, and that the oppor- 
tunities for unpleasant controversy were almost without 
number in view of the fact that he was such an ardent 
advocate of whatever question he took up, whether it 
was scientific, economic, or political, it is truly remark- 
able that there were so few who became hostile to him. 
But strange as it may seem, those who as a class were 
most unfriendly to Maury and least sympathetic toward 
his work were a considerable number of his brother 
officers in the navy. As a consequence, in the year 1855, 
a board of naval officers inflicted upon him painful 
mental sufferings and placed him in a humiliating 
position, at the very time when his name was being 
acclaimed by the scientists and many of the rulers of 
foreign countries. 

The occasion for the display of this enmity against 
Maury was the passing of the Act of Congress of Febru- 
ary 28, 1855, to ''promote the efficiency of the navy". 
To carry out this law, the President assembled a board of 
naval officers consisting of five captains, five com- 
manders, and five lieutenants, to ''make a careful exami- 
nation" of the personnel of the navy and report those 
found "incapable of performing promptly and efficiently 
all their duty both ashore and afloat". Those so re- 
ported were to be either dropped from the rolls of the 

107 



108 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

navy or placed upon what was to be called the "re- 
served list" and receive either leave of absence pay or 
furlough pay, according to the degree of their disability ; 
they were, moreover, to be ineligible for further promo- 
tion, and subject at all times to the Navy Department 
for duty. 

The members of this board were Captains William B. 
Shubrick, Matthew C. Perry, Charles S. McCauley, 
C. K. Stribling, and Abraham Bigelow; Commanders 
G. J. Pendergrast, Franklin Buchanan, Samuel F. Du 
Pont, and Andrew H. Foote; and Lieutenants John S. 
Missroon, Richard L. Page, Sylvanus W. Godon, William 
L. Maury, and James S. Biddle. The board met on the 
20th of June, and continued its sessions daily, except 
for Sundays and the 4th of July, until it finished its work 
on July 25, and the following day it reported the results 
of its deliberations. Its judgment was that seventy-one 
officers should be placed on the "reserved on leave of 
absence pay" list, and eighty-one on the "reserved on 
furlough pay" list; while forty-nine were recommended 
to be "dropped from the navy". 

Official announcement of these results was not made 
until some weeks later, and Maury did not receive 
notice from the Secretary of the Navy until September 
17, 1855 that his name had been placed on the "reserved 
on leave of absence pay" list. The Secretary's letter, 
however, informed him that he was not detached from 
the Naval Observatory, but was to continue on his pres- 
ent duty. 

To this letter Maury at once replied, "This announce- 
ment has taken me by surprise. I have been in the 
navy upwards of thirty years. During this time I have 
aimed in every station to which I have been called to 



HIS TREATMENT BY THE "RETIRING BOARD" 109 

serve my country truly and well, with what success the 
Department and the public can judge better than I. 
Suffice it to say, that I am not aware that any charges 
or accusations or even any complaint of duty neglected 
or badly performed during this long period has ever 
reached the Department against me. Nevertheless in 
the judgment of the Board I should be and have been 
placed under official disgrace. This is a severe blow and 
I feel it as a grievous wrong. May I not therefore be 
permitted to know what is the accusation against me 
and who my accusers were before the Board?" The 
Secretary answered that the Board in accordance with 
the law simply gave names and ranks, and did not assign 
reasons for its decisions. 

Maury felt that he had been made to suffer a grievous 
wrong, and began to appeal to his friends to help him to 
secure justice. He was particularly incensed over the 
fact that the Board met in secret, and that he could find 
out neither what his offense was nor who his accusers 
were. Some of the members of this "monstrous inquisi- 
tion", he declared, had publicly condemned all science 
in the navy, and none of the Board except Perry had 
made any mark upon the service that would be recog- 
nized as a reminder of their excellence when they were 
gone. He could think of only two reasons for their 
action against him. In the first place, there was a spirit 
of jealousy that he, a mere lieutenant, had dared to es- 
tablish a reputation somewhat honorable in spite of 
them; and in the second place, they would attempt to 
offer as an excuse for the slur they had cast upon him the 
fact that he was lame. As to the latter reason, Maury 
wrote, "Mere bodily activity, in an officer of my rank, 
is comparatively of little value, when taken in connection 



110 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

with the mental activity. Officers are expected — at 
least, it is generally so in the upper grades — to work 
rather with the head than the hand, and, moreover, I 
am bodily as active as a majority of the Board, and if 
broken legs disqualify, at least one member of the Board 
should have borne me company, for his leg was broken 
twice over. . . . General Scott is crippled in the arm, 
yet it does not appear to have unfitted him for the army. 
Besides, this Board has left untouched other crippled 
officers, both above and below me". 

The action of the Board produced a very mischievous 
and demoralizing effect on the naval service, upon which 
it let loose the spirit of a hyena. Officers began to in- 
vestigate the antecedents of each other, and all sorts of 
trouble-making scandal was unearthed. But fortu- 
nately for Maury nothing could be found prejudicial 
against his character and his record in the files of the 
Navy Department, and he exulted over the fact that he 
had never tripped in his youth. He became disgusted 
with all the accusations and insinuations that had been 
aroused, and declared that they were heartsickening to 
a man who loved to live at peace with all the world. 

It was necessary, however, for him to see the matter 
through. So he again wrote to the Secretary of the Navy, 
complaining that he had been given no hearing, that 
all action had been taken in secret, no minutes or records 
of any kind having been kept, and that the charge of 
incompetency was too vague; and therefore he asked 
for specific charges and for a fair and open trial according 
to law. The Secretary replied that the members of the 
Board had dispersed to their duties; but that he would 
reassemble them if the President so directed, adding 
that Maury had a "spotless character and eminent 



HIS TREATMENT BY IHE "RETIRING BOARD" 111 

service". Another interchange of letters took place, 
in which Maury said he could not see the action of the 
Board otherwise than as official disgrace to him; while 
the Secretary wrote that the President was of the opinion 
that the Board acted in accordance with the law and 
that there was no authority under it to command them 
to report the reasons for their recommendations. 

Maury then decided to write a letter to each member 
of the Board and ask the following questions: "1st. 
What was the process of examination adopted by the 
Board for ascertaining whether an officer was efficient 
or not? 2nd. What was the standing of efficiency for 
the grade of lieutenant? 3rd. What difference, if any, 
did the Board make between duty ashore and duty 
afloat? 4th. Wherein was I found incapable of per- 
forming the duties of my office, rank, or grade? 5th. 
Did the Board inspect the Observatory, or make other 
examination as to the manner in which it is conducted? 
6th. What was the character of the evidence upon 
which the Board pronounced its findings against me?" 

All replies to these letters were unsatisfactorily evasive, 
but in general they agreed in considering that Maury 
had not been placed in official disgrace. Perry wrote, 
"In justice to those who have been affected by the action 
of the Board, I cannot but hope that steps may soon be 
taken by the proper authorities to develop the causes 
and explain the circumstances which have brought about 
this painful change in our common service". But the 
junior member, Biddle, wrote most fully, and gave the 
impression that he thought that the accident to Maury's 
leg had unfitted him for sea service and that on this 
ground he had voted for his retirement. He added that 
each officer should perform his part of the most un- 



112 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

pleasant duty in the navy, service afloat, and he implied 
that he believed Maury had been unwilling to go to sea 
because of "love of scientific distinction". 

Meanwhile the press of the country had taken up 
Maury's cause, and a few examples from the newspapers 
will show how high the feeling ran. The Scientific Amer- 
ican wrote, ''To use the language of the Philadelphia 
Inquirer, we regard the action of the Board 'as an insult 
upon the virtue and general intelligence of the coun- 
try'. . . . (Maury's) eminent services have been ac- 
knowledged by almost every government in Europe. 
Prussia and Sweden have struck gold medals to his 
honor. The Russian Ambassador has publicly thanked 
him by the direction of his government. England has 
not been sparing of her tribute of admiration in Parlia- 
ment, and has adopted his plans in her own navy, while the 
great French Industrial Exhibition awards to his charts 
her highest premiums. His own country, on the contrary, 
declares him a clog and an incumbrance on its navy, and 
unworthy of promotion. We trust Congress will set 
this matter right. Better dispense with the services of 
the entire Board of 'ten minutes inquisitors' than of this 
eminent man. We understand that it had been pro- 
posed in Philadelphia, in case Lieutenant Maury retired 
from the Observatory, to present him with a testimonial 
of $50,000, as an acknowledgment of his services, and 
as a mark of the disapprobation of the action of the 
Board. We doubt not that this sum might easily be 
raised in our great commercial cities. Yes, twice that if 
necessary". 

The New York Herald held the Board up for ridicule, 
in the following fashion: "I understand there is now in 
press, and will shortly appear, a history of the lives and 



HIS TREATMENT BY THE "RETIRING BOARD" 113 

eminent services of the late Retiring Board, entitled 
'Lights and Shadows of the Fifteen'. It will embrace all 
the shades in the lives of those fifteen Spartans, from 
their entrance into the service up to their Thermopylae 
defeat' of 201 brothers in arms, by which gallant action 
they 'promoted themselves'. It will be the commence- 
ment of a new epoch in the naval history of the country, 
and will be rich, racy, and spicy". 

Further quotations from the New York Journal of 
Commerce, the National Intelligencer, and other news- 
papers might be given, in which the contention was made 
that, without respect to party, the sentiment was prac- 
tically unanimous that Maury should be restored to his 
place on the active list with all the ''honor and reparation 
due to injured merit", and that this should be done 
without further delay. But two more years were to pass 
before justice was done. Even after both the President 
and the Secretary of the Navy had come to realize that 
Maury had been unjustly treated, there was considerable 
further delay while Congress formulated a plan for un- 
doing the action of the Board in cases where mistakes 
had been made. Petitions had been presented by 
Senators for about one hundred of the officers affected, 
and these occasioned endless debates in the halls of 
Congress during the year 1856. Senator Bell of Tennes- 
see presented the petition on Maury's behalf before the 
Senate on January 21, 1856, and made several long 
speeches in its defense. 

Senator Mallory of Florida, who had sponsored the 
bill for promoting efficiency in the navy, was naturally 
a strong defender of the action of the Board, and when 
Maury's petition was presented he said, among other 
things, "If the Board has erred in any case whatever, 



114 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

there was no error in the case of Lieutenant Maury", 
for he declared that his physical disability was sufficient 
cause and he had repeatedly shunned sea service. There 
seems to have been no personal animus in Mallory's 
stand, which appears to have been merely the defense of 
a party measure; indeed, only one year before, when it 
was proposed in the Senate to make a remuneration of 
$25,000 to Maury for the service to the country of his 
wind and current charts, Mallory as chairman of the 
Senate Committee on Naval Affairs made a long and 
favorable report, in which he reviewed in detail Maury's 
work and quoted words of praise from the reports of 
Secretaries of the Navy Graham, Kennedy, and Dobbin. 
His report concluded with these words: "This officer 
has been for years in the public service, has a family to 
provide for, and is entirely dependent upon his annual 
pay ; and for these reasons your Committee think that a 
sum of money, insignificant indeed in comparison to his 
services, yet sufficient to remove his anxieties and to 
cheer his hopes for the future of those dependent upon 
him, might be justly bestowed. Your Committee rec- 
ommend that a sum of 25,000 dollars be thus appro- 
priated, and report a bill accordingly". Such a sudden 
turn from eloquent support of Maury to opposition to 
his interests was indeed remarkable, for it was a long 
jump from the advocacy of a measure awarding him 
$25,000 to one which reduced his salary from $3,500 to 
$1,200 a year. Mallory was supported in his defense 
of the action of the Board, as it affected Maury, mainly 
by Senators Clayton of Delaware, Benjamin of Louisi- 
ana, and Jefferson Davis of Mississippi. 

Eventually, however, the Senate Committee on Naval 
Affairs reported a bill to amend the act entitled "An Act 



HIS TREATMENT BY THE "RETIRING BOARD" 115 

to Promote the Efficiency of the Navy", which was 
finally passed on January 16, 1857. This provided that 
an officer whose status in the navy had been affected by 
the action of the Retiring Board could by written request 
secure an investigation, by regular court of inquiry, into 
his "physical, mental, professional, and moral fitness" 
for the naval service, and that the finding of this court 
might be submitted to the President, who was to take 
action accordingly. 

The bill originally contained two additional sections, 
providing for the establishment of the rank of admiral 
and the organization of a scientific corps in the navy; 
but they were finally struck out. This scientific corps 
was to take charge of the Naval Observatory, the nauti- 
cal almanac, the hydrographical work, and such other 
scientific matters as the Secretary of the Navy should 
prescribe; and its personnel was to consist of one captain, 
two commanders, ten lieutenants, and seven masters. 
Mallory favored the establishment of such a plan, and, 
about-facing again, said on the floor of the Senate, "The 
Committee had an earnest desire that that distinguished 
officer (Maury) should be at the head of the corps". 
Though Maury had written at first rather enthusiasti- 
cally of the scientific corps, he eventually came to the 
conclusion that it would not have been wise to establish 
it, and wrote that he was not sorry it had been struck out 
of the bill. 

Under the main provisions of the amended act, 
Maury's case was taken up by a court of inquiry, before 
whom it was proved by a surgeon that his leg was 
actually stronger than that of Missroon, one of the 
members of the Board; that he had not tried to evade 
sea service but had applied for such service during the 



116 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

Mexican War and had been refused; that other officers 
retained on the active list had a larger proportion of 
shore duty than he; and that he had been kept at the 
Naval Observatory by the various Secretaries of the 
Navy because of his special fitness for the work. This 
latter statement was proved by personal letters, of which 
the following from William A. Graham will serve as an 
example: "In answer to your inquiry, why you were not 
ordered to sea during my connection with the Navy De- 
partment, I have to state that I considered your services 
at the National Observatory of far more importance and 
value to the country and the navy than any that could 
be rendered by an officer of your grade at sea in time of 
peace. Indeed, I doubt whether the triumphs of navi- 
gation and of the knowledge of the sea achieved under 
your superintendence of the Observatory will not con- 
tribute as much to an effective Naval Service and to the 
national fame as the brilliant trophies of our arms". 

Resolutions in favor of Maury's restoration to the 
active service list were passed by the state legislatures of 
Tennessee, Louisiana, Alabama, Maryland, New Jersey, 
Virginia, and New York. Of those passed by the last- 
mentioned state, he wrote, "These resolutions uttered 
by a great state in the manner of a free people have a 
charm that is lacking in these honors which, in the shape 
of medals, orders of knighthood, crosses, and decora- 
tions, have been conferred by the hands of strangers". 

Finally, in view of the findings of the court of inquiry 
and the sympathy for Maury which had been aroused 
throughout the whole country, the President not only 
restored him to the active service list but also promoted 
him to the rank of commander. The announcement 
of this promotion was as follows: "Sir: The President 



HIS TREATMENT BY THE "RETIRING BOARD" 117 

of the United States, by and with the advice and consent 
of the Senate, has appointed you a Commander in the 
Navy from the 14th of September, 1855, on the Active 
List. I have the pleasure to enclose herewith your 
commission, dated the 27th instant (January, 1858), 
the receipt of which you will acknowledge to the De- 
partment. I am respectfully, I. Toucey". Thus was 
Maury at last completely vindicated. 



CHAPTER IX 
Shadows of Coming Troubles 

Though Maury emerged with victory perched upon 
his banners from his bitter conflict with the "Retiring 
Board", yet he was not to enjoy again the peaceful 
pursuit of scientific and philosophical researches. His 
mind was to be distracted by the consideration of a 
question which was before long to rend the country in 
twain and incidentally cause the wreck of his scientific 
ambitions. 

Maury had always been distinctively a sympathizer 
in all the hopes and ambitions of the South, but he had 
early recognized the dangerous political potentialities 
in the slavery problem. As far back as 1850 he had set 
forth the free navigation of the Amazon River as a novel 
remedy for the preservation of the Union. According 
to his plan, Brazil was to become a country for the dis- 
posal of the surplus slaves of the South, and he hoped 
that in time by act of law slavery and involuntary servi- 
tude might be completely removed from the South. 
"The Southern states", he wrote, "may emancipate just 
as New York, Massachusetts, etc. emancipated their 
slaves — large numbers of them were not set free; they, 
after the acts of prospective emancipation became laws, 
were sold at the South ; and so the South may sell to the 
Amazon and so get clear of them. In no other way can 
I see a chance for it, — the slaves of the South are worth 
about fifteen hundred million. Their value is increasing 
at the rate of thirty or forty million a year. It is the 
industrial capital of the South. Did ever a people con- 
ns 




Courtesy of Dr. K. 0. BertUng of the America-Instilut of Berlin. 

Statue of Maury over the Main Entrance of the Deutsche Seewarte 
(Meteorological Station of the German Admiralty) in Hamburg 



SHADOWS OF COMING TROUBLES 119 

sent to sink so much industrial capital by emancipation 
or any other voluntary act?" 

With characteristic energy Maury pressed the ques- 
tion upon the notice of the public. Lieutenant Lewis 
Herndon's report of his exploration of the Amazon 
Valley was submitted to Congress on January 26, 1853, 
and soon afterwards there appeared in the National 
Intelligencer and the Union of Washington at irregular 
intervals seven articles signed "Inca", in which the 
commercial, mineral, and agricultural potentialities of 
the Amazon region were painted in glowing colors. The 
free navigation of the Amazon River was demanded of 
Brazil by Maury in these "Inca" articles; and at the 
meeting of the Memphis Convention in June of the same 
year resolutions were adopted urging the same proposi- 
tion. These resolutions were then reported to the House 
of Representatives in the form of a "Memorial of 
Lieutenant Maury in behalf of the Memphis Convention 
in favor of the free navigation of the Amazon River". 

This propaganda made at first a very unfavorable 
impression on the Brazilians, and caused them to suspect 
that a scheme of annexation by the United States was 
the real reason for the insistence on the opening of their 
great river to free navigation. One Brazilian newspaper 
asserted that ''this nation of pirates, like those of their 
race, wish to displace all the people of America who are 
not Anglo-Saxon". So strong was the feeling thus 
aroused that the House Committee on Foreign Affairs 
reported on February 23, 1855 that further action on 
the Maury memorial was for the present inexpedient. 
However, at last, on December 7, 1866, an agreement 
was signed providing that after September 7 of the 
following year the Amazon should be free to the mer- 



120 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

chant ships of all nations, as far as the frontier of 
Brazil. 

Later even the Brazilians themselves conceded the 
beneficial influence of Maury in bringing this about. 
"After the publication in the Correio Mercantil of his 
(Maury's) memoriar', wrote the Brazilian historian, 
Joaquim Nabuco,^ ''and his description of the Amazon 
region, locked up from the world by a policy more ex- 
clusive than Japan's or Dr. Francia's, the cause of the 
freedom of navigation was triumphant. Tavares Bastos 
himself received from the book by Maury the patriotic 
impulse which converted him into a champion of this 
great cause". Events moved too swiftly, however, in 
the United States for the development of the Amazon 
Valley to play any part in the settling of the slavery 
question. 

Although Maury was, to a certain degree, pro-slavery 
and a strong States' rights man, yet he was by no means 
dis-unionist. In fact, during those critical months just 
preceding the outbreak of the War between the States 
he used all the power and influence at his command to 
keep the country united. As early as 1845 he referred 
in one of his letters to the "tendencies toward disunion 
in the nation", and as the years went by there was a 
constantly increasing number of references in his cor- 
respondence to the drifting of the ship of state toward 
the breakers. In his opinions regarding the great 
question at issue, he occupied a position in the middle 
ground and refused to permit himself to be carried away 
by either the extremists at the North or those of the 
South. He condemned with equal vigor the effort to 

1 Urn Estadista do Imperio (Paris, 1897), III, 12. 



SHADOWS OF COMING TROUBLES 121 

precipitate the acquisition of Cuba, and John Brown's 
raid at Harper's Ferry. He beheved that the people as 
a whole, both of the North and of the South, were not 
in sympathy with such schemes, but that such raids and 
filibustering expeditions were fostered by the unwisely 
partisan press, pulpit, and politicians. 

He, therefore, suggested the calling of a council of 
men out of politics, ex-governors and old judges, from 
different states of the South to formulate some kind of 
a proposition to lay before the people of the North. 
''It will never do", he wrote, "to suffer this Union to 
drift into dissolution". With this end in view, he wrote 
to the governors of the border states, Pennsylvania, 
New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware, to act as medi- 
ators. 

His letter to Governor Packer of Pennsylvania will 
give an idea of what he hoped to accomxplish. "When 
the affairs of a nation are disturbed", he declared, "quiet 
people, however humble their station, may be justified 
in stepping a little out of their usual way. In all exer- 
tions of duty, something is to be hazarded ; and I am sure 
you have only time to hear what I wish to write — none 
to listen to apologies for venturing to write you this 
letter. You recollect that, in the nullification times of 
South Carolina, Virginia stepped forward as mediator, 
and sent her commissioners to that state with the 
happiest results. But we are now in the midst of a 
crisis, more alarming to the peace and integrity of the 
Union than those memorable times. We have the 
people, in no less than seven of those states, assembling 
or preparing to assemble in their sovereign capacity to 
decide in the most solemn manner known to them 
whether they will remain in the Union or no. The most 



122 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

remarkable feature in the whole case is, it appears to me, 
this — ^that here we have a national family of states that 
have lived together in unity for nearly three score years 
and ten, and that a portion of them are preparing to 
dissolve these family ties and break up the Union, be- 
cause — because of what, sir? Ask legislators, ask 
governors, ask whom you will, and there are as many 
opinions as to the causes of discontent and the measures 
of redress as there are leaves in the forest. At no time 
have the people of any of the discontented states, acting 
in their sovereign capacity, ever authorized a remon- 
strance to be made to their sister states of the North 
against their course of action. We have heard a great 
deal of this from politicians, partisans, and others, but 
if the people of any one of the Southern states, acting 
in their sovereign capacity, have ever remonstrated with 
the people of the Northern states as to the causes of dis- 
satisfaction and complaint, and thus laid the matter 
formally before you of the North, I cannot call it to mind. 
Neither has any Northern state so much as inquired of 
the people of any Southern state, either as to the cause 
of their offense or as to the terms and conditions upon 
which they would be willing to remain in the Union. 

*'It does appear to me that in and out of Congress we 
are all at sea with the troubles that are upon us ; that the 
people, and the people alone, are capable of extricating 
us. You, my dear sir, and your state — not Congress — 
have it in your power to bring the people into the 'fair 
way' of doing this. This brings me to the point of my 
letter — then why will not the great state of Pennsylvania 
step forth as mediator between the sections? Authorize 
your commissioner to pledge the faith of his state that 
their ultimatum shall not only be laid before the people 



SHADOWS OF COMING TROUBLES 123 

of the Keystone State, assembled likewise in their 
sovereign capacity, but that she will recommend it to 
her sister states of the North, for like action on their 
part, and so let the people, and not the politicians, 
decide whether this Union is to be broken up". 

No tangible results, however, came from this effort, 
and Maury began to despair of the two sections' being 
able to arrive at a peaceable solution of the difficult 
problem. He had a clear conception of the nature of 
this fundamental question dividing the sections. ''The 
diseavse", he wrote, "the root of the thing, is not in 
cotton or slavery, nor in the election of Lincoln. But 
it is deep down in the human heart. The real question 
is a question of Empire. And I do not think our political 
doctors will be able to treat the case upon any other 
diagnosis than this. The country is divided into sec- 
tions; it is immaterial by what influence". 

Meanwhile, Maury went about his work at the Ob- 
servatory as well as he could with his mind distracted 
by the unsettled state of the country. In September, 
1860, he made a visit with Mrs. Maury and other mem- 
bers of his family to Niagara Falls, and to Newburgh, 
New York to see the family of his old friend Hasbrouck. 
During the following month he went to Tennessee to 
speak at the laying of the corner stone of the University 
of the South at Sewanee, as has already been related. 
On this visit, Maury weut to Nashville, where he de- 
livered two speeches. One was to the school children 
on the subject of the sea; the other was before the same 
audience that heard Robert L. Yancey and on the same 
subject, the state of the country. Yancey urged war 
and made extravagant claims for success; but Maury 
counseled moderation and warned the people that dan- 



124 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

ger was ahead. In November, he was in England 
whence he had gone to arrange for the copyrighting of a 
new edition of his "Physical Geography of the Sea". 

During that month momentous happenings occurred 
in the United States. On November 6, Lincoln was 
elected President, and the day following the legislature 
of South Carolina took steps which resulted in the call- 
ing of a secession convention. This convention unan- 
imously passed, on December 20, an ordinance declaring 
the state of South Carolina no longer in the Union. 

By that time Maury had returned to the United 
States, and he made a last effort to secure mediation 
through Commodore Stockton as the representative of 
the Governor of New Jersey; but early in the year 1861 
he sorrowfully wrote that the New Jersey plan had 
missed fire. After the failure of this attempt he sought 
in vain to be made a member of the "Peace Congress", 
which was called by the Border States and met in Wash- 
ington in the month of February. In this he offered to 
represent Tennessee, which he referred to as his Naomi. 

South Carolina had been followed out of the Union by 
Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and 
Texas. In February, the seceding states set up a 
provisional government with Montgomery as the capital 
and with Jefferson Davis as President and Alexander H. 
Stephens as Vice President. But Maury urged the 
"barrier" states, Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky, to 
remain in the Union in order to conserve the peace, to 
mediate, and to organize a re-annexation party for the 
next Presidential election. 

On the day of Lincoln's inauguration, Maury wrote, 
"The new President is now on his way to the Capitol, 
and the Express reports 'All quiet', as I took it for 



SHADOWS OF COMING TROUBLES 125 

granted it would be. I have no idea of any disturbance, 
or any attempt even at a plot. Of course, you will see 
the Inaugural as soon, if not sooner than I shall, for, 
having the telegraph, Mr. Lincoln may literally speak 
his polyglot through tongues of fire. Officers of the 
Army and Navy — should war come between the sec- 
tions — will have a hard time; and, indeed, who will not? 
No military man can permit himself to accept service 
with a mental reservation. All who are foes of his flag, 
and whom his country considers enemies of hers, are 
enemies of his; therefore, if we have a war between the 
sections, every man who continues in 'Uncle Sam's' 
service, is, in good faith, bound to fight his own, if his 
own be on the other side. The line of duty, therefore, 
is to me clear — each one to follow his own state, if his 
own state goes to war; if not, he may remain to help on 
the work of reunion. If there be no war between the 
sections, we must hoist the flag of re-annexation, to 
carry the elections of '64 upon that issue, bring back 
the seceding states, and be happier and greater and more 
glorious than ever. As soon as the smoke clears away, 
you will see that the old party lines have been rubbed 
out. . . . Virginia is not at all ready to go out of this 
Union; and she is not going out for anything that is 
likely to occur short of coercion — such is my opinion". 

But the broken fragments of the Union were not to be 
reunited in any such peaceful fashion, and Maury was 
soon to be forced to follow his native state into the 
bloody conflict. The overt act precipitating the war 
was the firing on Fort Sumter, April 12, 1861. Maury 
thought that the Star of the West with recruits for 
the garrison of the fort should not have been sent, for 
it was but an invitation to South Carolina to an overt 



126 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

act which would still further widen the breach between 
the sections. 

In any case, the overt act came, when under fear of 
reinforcements from a strong squadron which was in 
preparation President Jefferson Davis on April 12, 1861 
ordered General Beauregard to reduce Fort Sumter. 
Three days afterward President Lincoln issued a proc- 
lamation calling on the state governors to furnish 75,000 
state militia. This caused Virginia to pass an ordinance 
of secession on the 17th of April. Moreover, in Tennes- 
see, Maury's adopted state, sentiment favorable to the 
Confederacy began to crystallize, and on May 8 her 
legislature decided also in favor of separation from the 
Union and leagued the state with the Southern Confed- 
eracy. But in spite of the fact that Maury had written 
of Tennessee as his Naomi, it was his native Virginia 
that decided his future for him. 

On the day this state passed her ordinance of secession, 
Maury wrote to his wife, who was visiting in Fredericks- 
burg, not to return to Washington, for he expected 
Virginia soon to declare herself out of the Union and he 
would as a consequence immediately resign his com- 
mission in the navy. Three days later he regretfully 
forwarded to President Lincoln his resignation from the 
service in which he had spent so many happy and 
profitable years. 

The circumstances connected with the writing of this 
resignation are thus related by Maury's daughter Mary: 
''It is related of Socrates that, when his last hour had 
come and one of his young disciples brought him the cup 
of hemlock, the young man covered his face with his 
mantle, weeping as he presented it, and, falling on his 
knees, he buried his face on the couch where his dear 



SHADOWS OF COMING TROUBLES 127 

master sat awaiting his death. When Maury deter- 
mined to leave the service of the United States, he bade 
his secretary (Mr. Thomas Harrison) write his resigna- 
tion. That true and loyal heart, which had served and 
loved him for almost twenty years, and whose fluent pen 
had rendered him such willing service, refused its office 
now; and, presenting the unfinished paper with one 
hand, he covered his eyes with the other, and exclaimed, 
with a choking voice and gathering tears, T cannot 
write it, sir!' He knew it was the death-warrant to 
his scientific life — the cup of hemlock that would para- 
lyze and kill him in his pursuit after the knowledge of 
nature and of nature's laws". 

As far as the disturbed political conditions permitted, 
Maury continued his work at the Observatory down to 
the very day of his resignation, his last publications 
being Nautical Monographs, numbers 2 and 3, on "The 
Barometer at Sea" and ''The Southeast Trade Winds of 
the Atlantic" respectively. With the war clouds gather- 
ing round him he had written, "What a comfort the sea 
is ! I have withdrawn my mind from the heart-sickening 
scenes that you gentlemen are meeting". But with his 
leaving the Observatory this comfort was taken from 
him, and instead of the quiet contemplative life of a 
scientist he was to suffer for eight years the rough exi- 
gencies and trying uncertainties of the Civil War and 
its aftermath. 



CHAPTER X 

As His Friends and Family Knew Him 
Before the War 

Before passing on to a consideration of Maury's con- 
nection with the events of the Civil War, one should give 
some attention to him as he appeared to his friends and 
family during the ante helium decade when success, fame, 
and happiness were all his. Some idea of his personality 
has, perhaps, already been conveyed through the dis- 
cussion of his work and achievements up to this point in 
his career, though only incidentally; now the aim will be 
to focus attention for awhile on Maury the man. 

The range of his acquaintances was very extensive, 
and the list of his correspondents was largely the roll of 
the great men of his day. Among these were the follow- 
ing, taken at random: John Quincy Adams, John C. 
Calhoun, John Tyler, Leverrier and other astronomers 
both at home and abroad, Humboldt, the Grand Duke 
Constantine of Russia, the Archduke Ferdinand Maxi- 
milian of Austria, Jomard, the French Egyptologist, 
S. F. B. Morse, Cyrus W. Field, Professor Agassiz, Dr. 
Kane, Lord Wrottesley, Lord Ashburton, Bishop Otey, 
Bishop Leonidas Polk, Matthew Calbraith Perry, 
Nathaniel Hawthorne, Captain Jansen of Holland, 
Baron Justus von Liebig, John A. Dahlgren, William 
Gilmbre Sims, Nathaniel Parker Willis, Michael 
Faraday, Benjamin Silliman, Jefferson Davis, Sam 
Houston, Donald McKay, and dozens of others whose 
names are not now so well remembered, — scientists, 
statesmen, and men of affairs. Maury's personality was 

128 




Courtesy of "The Journal of American History," ]'ol. IV, Number 3 {1910). 

Bust of Matthew Fontaine Maury by E. V. Valentine, in the State 
Library at Richmond, Va. 



AS HIS FRIENDS AND FAMILY KNEW HIM 129 

such as easily to turn an acquaintance into a friend, and 
most of his friends, whether they were illustrious men or 
not, showed themselves to be friends indeed for they 
remained his friends in time of need, as will be seen in 
the later events of his life. 

Now, as to the kind of man they found him to be, he 
was in the first place one who was remarkable for his 
great breadth of mind. The editor of the Southern 
Literary Messenger was of the opinion that Maury's 
astronomical researches had served to ''enlarge all his 
perceptions and give greater breadth to all his views". 
That may be true, but he seemed to have had the natural 
capacity for taking a broad and extensive view of ques- 
tions, some of which were world-wide in their scope. 
This is particularly noteworthy in his scientific re- 
searches, and his manifold extra-professional interests 
also amply exemplify the great sweep of his imaginative 
mind. 

There was a certain charm to Maury's conversation 
and presence that drew people irresistibly to him. 
Nathaniel Parker Willis felt this charm. ''He made me 
subject", wrote Willis, "to his personal magnetism, and 
while with him I had secretly vowed myself and my pen 
to the service of his interests and reputation thence- 
forward. . . . He was, unconsciously to himself, to me 
an exquisitely interesting study of character. I had 
long heard of him, and knew what the public generally 
knew of his pursuits; but my conviction was strength- 
ened every day that he was greatly undervalued by com- 
mon repute, and that he was of a far deeper intellect and 
much more of a natural philosopher than the world with 
all his repute gave him credit for. . . . Under his 
exceeding modesty and reserve, there seemed to be a 



130 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

vein of the heroic and romantic so hidden that he was 
seemingly unconscious of it, and I was quite sure before 
I parted with him that he was one of the sans peur et sans 
reproche class of men; yet willing to pass for only the 
industrious man of science which the world takes him for. 
Under the strong magnetism of his sincere and simple 
manner, I formed an irresistible attachment to him, and 
longed to set the world right as to his qualities". ^ 

Some considered that the source of this charm lay in 
his strong and powerful imagination, which lifted him 
above the man of mere intellect and often lent the charm 
of eloquence to his conversation and to his lectures. 
Others were impressed with the simplicity and natural- 
ness of his character, which in its quiet unostentatious 
manner was very prepossessing. His manners were, 
indeed, as simple and unpretending as a child's, and he 
had as keen a relish for a joke as the j oiliest Jack Tar 
that ever shipped with him. 

Maury had a very modest estimate of his own work. 
He did not claim to have discovered anything. *'I only 
bring together", he wrote, **the observations that others 
have made, and then leave it to the observations them- 
selves to discover their own meaning in their own way. 
Sometimes, indeed, I do become the mouthpiece of these 
observations and proclaim to the world what they reveal 
to me. But in this I consider myself merely as an in- 
strument. I am fortunate, indeed, when I succeed in 
rightly interpreting the meaning of the observations, and 
am happy always to find concurrence in the opinions 
expressed or entertained by older and wiser". His 
investigations on every subject were directed toward 
some practical benefit to his fellowmen, and he often 

1 In the Home Journal of New York, September, 1859. 



AS HIS FRIENDS AND FAMILY KNEW HIM 131 

quoted with appreciation the saying that he who made 
two blades of grass grow where only one had grown 
before was a benefactor to the world. 

This practical attitude toward his work and toward 
life in general led Maury to have very definite ideas 
about education. These appeared to some extent in his 
scheme for a Naval School, but they were more fully 
revealed in his letters. Latin and Greek, he thought, 
should not be given the place of first importance as com- 
pared with mathematics and chemistry, and he declared 
that West Point was the only tolerable institution in the 
United States because of the absence there of the hum- 
buggery of the Learned Languages. Female seminaries 
he considered to be "downright cheats" because of the 
superficiality of the knowledge imparted there. He was 
opposed to the neglect of the study of English, so preva- 
lent in the schools and colleges of his day, and thought 
that Spanish, French, and German were languages well 
worthy of study. Naturally, he laid great stress on the 
value of mathematical, geographical, and other scientific 
studies. "As for the sciences", he declared, "more is 
now annually developed in every department thereof 
than was ever known, dreamed, or thought of, by the 
ancients". 

Maury himself had been largely self-educated, but his 
speeches as well as his writings show that he had read 
widely and discriminatingly. He was well read not only 
in science and naval history and biography, but also in 
the classics, and often quoted passages from Shakespeare, 
Byron, Dante, and the Bible; in the course of a single 
speech he referred intelligently to Plato, Plutarch, 
Seneca, Goethe, Bacon, Newton, and other authors. He 
is said to have been fond of reading aloud to his family 



132 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

from Scott's novels and poems, Shakespeare's plays, and 
the works of many other British poets, particularly 
Wordsworth and Mrs. Hemans. 

The Civil War interfered materially with the educa- 
tion of Maury's sons. His eldest son Richard spent 
some time at the University of Virginia, while John 
Herndon was placed in the Virginia Military Institute. 
This interference was a source of great disappointment 
to their father who had shown the keenest interest in 
their education, or, as he expressed it, "putting on their 
armor for the battle of life". This same cordial interest 
in young men is manifest in his addresses before college 
students, and appears frequently in his correspondence. 
One letter in particular is of great interest, in this con- 
nection, because of the light it throws on Maury's char- 
acter as well as for its revelation of his ideas on education. 
The last portion of the letter, which was written to young 
Hamilton Lieber at the time he was on the point of enter- 
ing the United States Naval Academy as a midshipman, 
is as follows: "Your future position in life and your 
standing in the navy depend upon the degree of energy 
with which you shall acquit yourself of the duties re- 
quired of you as a Midshipman. If you be idle and inat- 
tentive now, you cannot hereafter recover the ground 
that you will lose. Letting the opportunities now 
afforded you pass unimproved, you cannot expect here- 
after to contend, except at great odds, with your com- 
rades for the honors of the profession. 

"Make it a rule to make everything while you are 
young bend to your profession. The books that you 
read for amusement, let them be professional books 
instead of novels — which I hope you will never read — 
read the lives of eminent naval men. I commend to 



AS HIS FRIENDS AND FAMILY KNEW HIM 133 

your particular attention Mackenzie's 'Life of Decatur' 
and the 'Life of Admiral Collingwood'. Take these two 
characters as your examples, and always have them in 
your eye ; make them in all things, except the duel and 
the course toward Barron, your models. 

"I say never read novels, but eschew them while you 
are young as I hope you will strong drink — because they 
are as destructive to the wholesome habits of the mind 
as mint- juleps are to those of the body — they both 
enervate and unfit one for hard study or hard labor — 
and as a beverage both are very pleasant. But hate 
them both, I pray you, my young friend, for they are 
poisons. 

"Make it a rule to ask yourself at night what you have 
learned during the day, and do not be content until you 
get a reply, and always learn something if it be only the 
meaning of a word from the dictionary. 

"Make it a rule to obey all orders promptly and 
cheerfully. It is immaterial how disagreeable the officer 
giving the order may be, or how unpleasant the duty; 
go about it cheerfully, never sullenly nor carelessly. 
Sometimes you will find the Midshipmen disposed to 
turn on one of their fellows and 'run him' as it is called. 
Make it a rule never to join with them in this, for it not 
infrequently ends, particularly in the navy, in down- 
right persecution. 

"Make it a rule never to offend, nor to seek cause of 
offense in the conduct of others. Be polite to all, fa- 
miliar with but few. Do not be quick to take offense; 
you will never find a gentleman who will willfully and 
without any cause, real or imaginary, offend another. 
Therefore whenever you imagine yourself aggrieved 
either by an equal or a superior officer — when you are 



134 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

in doubt as to whether the offense were intended or not, 
go straight up to him, state the case, and ask the meaning 
of the intention. Never let imaginary offenses, slights, 
or cuts find a place in your breast — they sour the dis- 
position. Ask to have them explained at once, and in 
asking be always polite — never show temper. 

"The rule in the navy is to treat everybody as a 
gentleman until he proves himself otherwise. It is a 
good rule — observe it well. You will sometimes hear 
the opinion expressed that it is necessary for a young 
ofhcer to establish his courage by fighting. Now believe 
me, my young friend, that the courage to stand up and 
be shot at is the poorest sort of courage. He only is 
truly brave who has the courage to do right. This is 
the highest quality of bravery that a military, or any 
other man can possess. 

"The doing right, the acting up to the principle, may 
sometimes seem to you to be inexpedient, or it may have 
the appearance of making you unpopular — but this 
principle of conduct will build up a character founded on 
the rock which nothing can shake ; and let me assure you 
that it is unwise and always wrong for a man to have 
enmity in his breast between himself and his conscience. 
When principle is involved, be deaf to expediency. It is 
a dangerous word to all classes of men. I would, if I 
could, teach you almost to hate it." 

Now, a man who could attract and hold friends as 
Maury did would naturally be one whose family life 
was a happy one. This, indeed, was true in his case. 
He was a faithful son who made his home that of his 
parents in their old age, a thoughtful and considerate 
brother to his sisters and brothers, even sharing his 
home for a time with his brother's widow and her chil- 



AS HIS FRIENDS AND FAMILY KNEW HIM 135 

dren and often having other relatives under his roof To 
his wife and children, Maury was their perfect ideal of a 
husband and father; while to him the happiest of all 
places was his home, and when he was away from it his 
mind was constantly filled with thoughts of his family. 
Many of his letters to friends contain references to his 
children, whose childish sayings he never tired of repeat- 
ing. 

His family, of course, knew Maury most intimately 
of all, and the following account of his appearance, per- 
sonality, and home life is of particular interest and value : 
**Maury was a stout man, and about five feet six inches 
in height; he had a fresh, ruddy complexion, with curling 
brown hair, and clear, tender blue eyes. His massive 
head and strong neck surmounted broad and square 
shoulders, and a chest deep and full. His arms were 
long and strong, with hands small, soft, and beautifully 
formed — he was apt to use them in graceful gestures 
while conversing. 

"Every feature and lineament of his bright counte- 
nance bespoke intellect, kindliness, and force of character. 
His fine blue eyes beamed from under his broad forehead 
with thought and emotion, while his flexible mouth 
smiled with the pleasure of imparting to others the ideas 
which were ever welling up in his active brain. In early 
manhood his head was well covered with fine soft, wavy 
brown hair, which became thin before he reached middle 
age. Latterly, he was quite bald, as is shown in Valen- 
tine's fine bust, taken when he was sixty years old. 

''His conversation was enjoyed by all who ever met 
him; he listened and learned while he conversed, and 
adapted himself to every capacity. He especially de- 
lighted in the company of young people, to whom his 



136 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

playful humor and gentle consideration made him very 
winning. 

"In his early youth he was careless in his dress, and 
expressed contempt for those who judged of a man by his 
outward appearance. 'But', he said, 'I soon perceived 
the folly of this carelessness' ; and in later years he be- 
came scrupulously neat in his attire. His enjoyment of 
the pleasures of the table was refined ; he liked good 
wine; he carved well, and entertained generously; and 
he was never more genial, humorous, or interesting than 
when surrounded by friends about a well-served board ".^ 

The account of his home life continues as follows: 
"Whether writing or thinking, no noise of the children, 
no invasion of visitors, was ever an interruption. In 
the midst of his most interesting pursuits, on which he 
was concentrating his powers, he would lay down his 
pen and join in the laugh at a good joke, and encourage 
the mirth to go on. He had an ever-active sense of 
humor; but scandal and gossip he would not allow in 
his presence, and he w^ould never pass over any violation 
of high principle. He made loving companions and 
friends of his children — in his walks, in his talks, in his 
work, in his recreation, he was always one of them. He 
invited their confidence, and freely gave them his; in 
that household there were no secrets — any step that was 
about to be taken, any journey made, or any work pro- 
jected, was fully and freely talked over and discussed in 
family conclave. And yet his word was law; that no 
one ever dreamt of disputing : so he was always the last 
to speak in these family councils, and gave the 'casting 
vote', as he used to say; the youngest voting or giving 
their opinion first on the matter under discussion. 

2 The Life of Maury by Diana Fontaine Maury Corbin, pp. 147, 148. 



AS HIS FRIENDS AND FAMILY KNEW HIM 137 

"Most of his voluminous writings were thus freely 
submitted to the family council, or copied by them, and 
each one invited and encouraged to criticise; and thus, 
not only were they made familiar with the workings of 
his mind but were taught to express their own thoughts. 
He wrote or composed and dictated his greatest books 
in his parlor, surrounded by his family, and it seemed 
sometimes as if he possessed a dual consciousness, so 
quickly could he abstract or concentrate his mind upon 
his writing. 

"Like few great men, he was the greater the closer one 
got to him. Little children approached him confidingly, 
and never left him without bearing away some good 
lesson, so gently and simply taught as to be forever 
planted in their young minds. His especial pleasure was 
to say a kind word and lend a helping hand to young 
men beginning the battle of life. Above all men, he 
knew the value of praise as an incentive to high endeavor, 
and when he had occasion to censure or criticise, he did it 
with such obvious reluctance that it never failed to do 
the good intended. While at home, he had been taught 
to respect women, to love the truth, and to reverence 
God; and these teachings he never forgot. 

"One of his daughters writes as follows: 'He never 
had a study or anything like a sanctum, where his wife 
and children could not come, preferring to work in the 
midst of them wherever they congregated. He would 
sit at the round marble-topped center table, with his 
papers spread out, the bright light falling on his bald 
head and shining on his brown curls, while he sat un- 
conscious of what was going on around him; whether it 
was music, or dancing, or reading aloud, or romping, he 
would wTite away, or read what he had written, or talk to 
himself and shake his head'. 



138 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

"His daughters often served as his amanuenses, and 
sometimes he dictated to two at once, while one of the 
little ones would balance herself on the rounds of his 
chair, and curl his back hair over the red-and-blue 
pencil he always used. Sometimes he would walk up 
and down the two parlors wrapped in a light blue silk 
Japanese dressing-gown, quilted with eider down, which 
was a present from Captain Jansen, the long ribbons, 
which should have been fastened around his waist, trail- 
ing behind him, or gathered up like reins in the hands of 
one of the little ones, who trotted after him, backwards 
and forwards, calling out 'Gee, woa!' or 'Back, sir!' — 
he paying not the slightest attention, but dictating 
gravely. 

"He used to say he was the youngest of the family 
except the baby, and it was his habit, when dressing in 
the morning, to seat the youngest (the little two-year- 
old) upon the bureau, to hold the soap while he was 
shaving; while the rest would stand around, one to hold 
or receive the razor, one the brush, one the towel, and 
one or two the papers on which to wipe the razor ; and we 
all would eagerly watch the pile of lather which he made 
with the soap and hot water in his shaving-can. He 
brushed his bald head with two immense brushes at the 
same time, one in each hand. 'For', he assured us 
gravely, 'you see, if I only use one at a time, it will turn 
me round and round like one oar in a boat'. And we 
believed that that was the only way to brush hair. Then 
he would tell us stories and anecdotes about his brothers 
and himself — what they did and what they said in 
Tennessee, and of his home life there. These stories he 
would tell over and over again, fitting them to the com- 
prehension of the 'two-year-old', as she or he would come 



AS HIS FRIENDS AND FAMILY KNEW HIM 139 

on, until we knew them by heart, and, with a clamor of 
tongues, would set him right if he omitted any incident 
or related it in the wrong order. And we knew exactly 
when to laugh and applaud, and enjoyed it all the more 
because it was so familiar. 

"Often he would take the whole tribe out for long 
walks, or to gather fruit or nuts, or bright-colored leaves; 
and to reach the high ones he would make what he called 
a 'Tennessee arm', which was a long pole with a crutch 
at the end, with which he could twist them off, directing 
us where to stand and hold up our little pinafores to 
catch the coveted prize; and then what laughter and 
hurrahs and congratulations would be bestowed upon 
the fortunate catcher 1 He had pet names for all except 
the eldest; he said she grew up too fast for him to fit a 
name to her. There were 'Nannie Curly', 'Goggen', 
'Davy Jones', 'Totts', 'Glum', 'Brave', and 'Sat Sing'. 
By these names he always called us, and we knew we 
had displeased him, and hung our heads with shame, if 
he gave us our baptismal ones. 

"I don't think I ever went to school more than three 
months altogether. He was my loving and tender 
teacher always ; and when Betty and I grew to be fifteen 
or thereabouts, we had to take care of one or two of the 
younger ones and teach them to read, write, and cipher, 
yet without allowing this duty to interfere with our own 
lessons or our regular tasks of sewing. He taught us 
our lessons at the breakfast table, and for an hour or so 
afterwards, his plan being to bid us — my sister Betty 
and myself — 'one at a time, tell him about the lesson'. 
He seldom asked us questions on it, unless we found a 
difficulty in expressing ourselves, and he never asked 
those put down in the book. After both had had our 



140 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

say, he would, taking the lesson for a text, deliver 
the most delightful lectures. He prescribed no set time 
for our preparation of these lessons ; but we were required 
to master them thoroughly, and give the substance to 
him clothed in our own words and not in those of the 
book. He always expected and required that we should 
not prepare them at night, but should then come into 
the parlor to receive and entertain and be entertained 
by the distinguished men and women who frequently 
gathered round him. He considered this a most impor- 
tant part of our education. 

"He objected to the introduction of cards in the family 
circle, as he said they interfered with intelligent and im- 
proving conversation, and that those who had recourse 
to them for amusement were apt to depend on them, 
and could not exert themselves to be agreeable as they 
should and would do, if they had not this entertainment. 
He himself did not know one card from another. Our 
Mother taught us our Bible lessons and catechism, and 
she and Aunt Eliza, who was a beautiful needlewoman, 
gave us regular tasks in mending and darning. We 
seldom went to church more than once on Sunday, as 
it was so far from the Observatory to St. John's (Rev- 
erend Doctor Pynes) ; so Papa had us up regularly for 
the evening service, which we would read verse about, 
*the stranger that was within our gates' generally taking 
part also. . . . 

"He would never allow us to read works of fiction 
whilst we were students, and would punish most severely 
any departure from the truth, or act of disobedience. 
These two sins, he said, were the only ones he intended 
to punish his children for; and he was very careful not 
to make unnecessary issues with them, and never to give 



AS HIS FRIENDS AND FAMILY KNEW HIM 141 

an order unless he saw that it was obeyed and not for- 
gotten. A punishment which he inflicted once on 
Betty and myself I shall never forget. Betty borrowed 
'Helen', one of a very handsome and complete set of 
Miss Edgeworth's novels, from cousin Sally Fontaine 
in Washington, thinking, or persuading herself, that 
Papa would not object, as that was so mild a type of 
fiction, and we both read most of it. He found us at 
it one Saturday. He didn't say one word, but took 
the book, and one of us in each hand, marched us down- 
stairs into Mamma's room, and, to our horror, thrust 
the handsome borrowed book into the flames, and held 
it there with the tongs until it was entirely consumed. 
Oh, how we did cry! It seemed such a terrible thing 
to burn a book — a priceless book — of \vhich we had so 
few. Then our honor was touched to the quick, for we 
had borrowed it. But for those very reasons the lesson 
cut deep, and made the impression that was intended. 
I for one would gladly have taken a whipping instead, 
to be allowed to return the book uninjured". ^ 

Whatever sternness Maury displayed toward his 
children, it was so tempered with gentleness and loving 
consideration that it did not detract at all from the ideal 
relationship existing between them. When his tw^o old- 
est daughters were married and left their father's home, 
he saw to it that the loving ties which bound them to the 
rest of the family were kept as strong as ever; and the 
letters which he wrote to them were filled with the 
tenderest and sincerest expressions of affection and the 
most tactfully worded counsel and advice. For example, 

^ Ibid., pp. 149-154. Maury's children were Betty, Diana Fontaine, 
Richard Launcelot, John Herndon, Mary, Eliza, Matthew Fontaine, Jr., 
and Lucy. 



142 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

he wrote to one of them, "That you are both poor is no 
ground of soHcitude; happiness is above riches, and if 
you are not happy, being poor, wealth would not, I 
apprehend, make you happy. Poverty has its virtues, 
and my struggles with it are full of pleasant remem- 
brances. I hope your experience will tally with mine. 
I do not say, strive to be content, for in that there is 
no progression; but be content to strive". At another 
time he wrote, "I am writing you a very disjointed letter, 
my love, but I have been thinking so much of you, 
and missing you so sorely, and loving you so tenderly, 
since you went away, and my heart was so full, and my 
head so empty, that I hardly know what I have said. 
Did you plant the yellow jasmine at Farley vale? 'Tis 
the grand scion of the one I courted your Mother under, 
and I wish it, or a slip from it, to be planted over my 
grave". This request was carried out, and the flower 
grew over his grave for six or seven years until it was 
killed during an extremely cold winter. The entire 
story of Maury's home life seems almost too nearly 
perfect to be true, but diligent search of all available 
records has failed to disclose anything which would de- 
tract from the portrayal of him as always the true, 
considerate, loving husband and father. 






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CHAPTER XI 
His Part in the Civil War: In Virginia 

Maury resigned from the naval service and left the 
National Observatory on April 20, 1861. He declared 
that he worked as hard and as faithfully for Uncle Sam 
up to three o'clock of that day as he had ever done, and 
at that hour turned over all the public property and 
records of the office to Lieutenant Whiting, the officer 
who was next in authority. He left the Observatory 
with the deepest regret. ''Its associations", he wrote, 
"the treasures there, which, with your help and that 
of thousands of other friendly hands, had been collected 
from the sea, were precious to me and as I turned my 
back upon the place a tear furrowed my cheek, for I 
could not but recollect that such things were". 

From Richmond, on April 26th, he wrote to Secretary 
of the Navy, Gideon Welles, who had requested to know 
his reasons for his resignation, the following reply: "I 
am not aware of any law or rule that requires an 
officer tendering resignation to give reasons therefor. 
In this case, however, I have no objections to state them. 
They are these: our once glorious Union is gone; the 
state through which and for which I confessed allegiance 
to the Federal government has no longer any lot or part 
in it. Neither have I. I desire to go with my own 
people and with them to share the fortunes of our own 
state together. Such are the reasons for tendering my 
resignation, and I hope the President will consider them 
satisfactory". Maury afterwards stated in detail the 
reasons for his resignation in his "A Vindication of 

143 



144 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

Virginia and the South", which was the last thing that 
he prepared for the press, in May, 1871. This state- 
ment, which must be read as a whole in order to get 
the full force of his arguments, is much too long to quote 
here; but it is sufficient to say that his action was 
prompted by the same feelings and motives that in- 
spired Lee and the dozens of other officers in both army 
and navy who went with their respective states when 
secession was decided upon. Furthermore, as will be 
seen later, in Maury's case the sacrifices involved were 
perhaps greater than those suffered by any other man 
who cast his lot with the South. 

But, strangely, from the very beginning of the Civil 
War Maury's name was singled out for special condem- 
nation, and many false statements were made about 
him and his work. He was accused of carrying on 
treasonable correspondence with the enemy before he 
resigned from the service, and of having the buoys 
removed from the Kettle Bottom Shoals and of taking 
away with him from the Observatory the maps of Geor- 
gia, Alabama, and Florida. His astronomical and 
meteorological work was ridiculously depreciated, and 
toward the close of the war the National Academy of 
Sciences went so far as to pass on January 9, 1864 this 
resolution: "Resolved by the National Academy of 
Sciences, That in the opinion of this Academy the 
volumes entitled 'Sailing Directions', heretofore issued 
to navigators from the Naval Observatory, and the wind 
and current charts which they are designed to illustrate 
and explain, embrace much which is unsound in philoso- 
phy and little that is practically useful, and that there- 
fore these publications ought no longer to be issued 
in their present form". Among all the injuries which 



HIS PART IN THE CIVIL WAR 145 

Maury suffered from casting his fortunes with Virginia 
and the South, these hostile condemnations by former 
fellow officers and scientists, made in the midst of the 
animosities of civil strife, were perhaps the most damag- 
ing, for they cast a cloud upon his good name and the 
fame which he had won in the field of oceanography, — a 
cloud of misrepresentation which after more than half a 
century has not been entirely removed. 

Upon Maury's arrival at Richmond, he lost no time 
in offering his services to Governor Letcher, who granted 
him a commission as commander in the Navy of Vir- 
ginia, dated April 23, 1861. At about the same time he 
appointed him a member of his Executive Council, 
only just authorized by an ordinance of April 20. Its 
other members were : Honorable John J. Allen, President 
of the Court of Appeals; Colonel Francis H. Smith, 
Superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute; R. L. 
Montague; and Thomas S. Raymond. This council, 
ordered to devise plans for the arming and protecting 
of the state in the shortest time possible, continued to 
function until June 19 of the same year, when its manu- 
script minutes come abruptly to a close. On April 25, 
Virginia had joined the Confederate States and adopted 
their provisional government; and on April 29 Richmond 
had become the Capital of the Confederacy. The Vir- 
ginia State Navy was then incorporated with that of 
the Confederacy, and on June 10 Maury received his 
commission in the Confederate States Navy. 

On the following day Maury wrote, 'T begin to feel 
very useless. I am afraid there is too much red tape 
yet left in the world. I hope it may not tie us down". 
After remarking that there were small men in the Con- 
federate government, and that there had been conflicts 



146 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

between Virginia authority and that of the Confederacy, 
he continued, ** Davis, it appears to me, is grasping after 
patronage. Don't think he Hkes Lee. Lee told me 
yesterday he did not know where he was. Nor do L 
I can see though how that may have proceeded from an 
honest misunderstanding. But it's bad in times like 
this to so jar your general that he does not know whether 
he is in or out of power. . . . Where the wrong is I am 
not so clear, but the biggest promotions seem to be on the 
other side. You may rely upon it, the Confederate 
States government has come here feeling that there is 
between it and us something of antagonism". Maury 
had reason to feel uncertain as to his standing, for Davis 
had been unfriendly to him when he was seeking vindica- 
tion for the unjust action of the Retiring Board, and his 
strongest opponent at that time had been Mallory, then 
Chairman of the Senate Naval Affairs Committee and 
later Secretary of the Navy in the Confederate govern- 
ment. Besides, among the naval officers whom Maury 
had affronted during that unpleasant controversy was 
Buchanan, who had become the officer of highest rank in 
the Confederate Navy. 

Maury had the affairs of his family on his mind also, 
and he was particularly concerned over his wife who had 
been made ill by the shock incident to the sudden out- 
break of the war and the breaking up of her home 
in Washington. She and her younger children had, 
through the kindness of a cousin, John Minor, been 
taken into his home in Fredericksburg, a handsome brick 
house with a lovely garden, which still stands at 214 
Main Street much as it appeared when the refugees 
occupied it. Here came also Maury's two married 
daughters with their children, Mrs. W. A. Maury with 



HIS PART IN THE CIVIL WAR 147 

her one child from Washington, and Mrs. Corbin with 
her two children from her country place which was so 
near the Potomac that it soon fell into the hands of the 
Federals. His sons-in-law and his two eldest sons had 
early entered the Confederate army. His mind was 
greatly disturbed also because of his financial invest- 
ments in the North, which had been made through his 
cousin Rutson Maury of New York and his friend Has- 
brouck of Newburgh, New York. The latter remained 
a true friend in spite of the war, and at Maury's request 
was able to save a small part of his investments. Their 
relation, as effected by the war, is an example of the 
many that existed of like nature, and its peculiar poig- 
nancy is indicated in this letter: ''The nefarious Civil 
War that rages has not and I trust never may cool our 
hearts towards you and your dear family. My son 
Henry is an officer in the army of the North, he could not 
with honor decline to serve in it. Your son Richard is 
an officer in the army of the South, as you informed me 
in one of your letters, and could not probably with 
honor decline to serve in it. I sincerely hope that 
Henry and Richard may never meet in any battle during 
this unhappy war, and by duty and honor be obliged to 
shed each other's blood". 

Maury, however, did not allow separation from his 
family and depression of spirts to interfere with the per- 
formance of what he considered his duty, but made an 
enthusiastic endeavor to make the most possible out of 
conditions as he found them. He first assisted in forti- 
fying Jamestown Island in the James River and Glouces- 
ter Point on the York River, early in May, 1861, for the 
defense of Richmond. Besides he sat almost daily with 
the Governor's Executive Council to consider the many 



148 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

problems which confronted the State in her time of great 
need. In the summer of 1861 he was appointed Chief 
of the "Naval Bureau of Coast, Harbor, and River De- 
fense", and began to plan the construction of submarine 
mines to be placed in the rivers and harbors of the South. 
These were to be exploded under enemy ships by elec- 
tricity, and insulated wire was needed for this purpose. 
He accordingly sent a Richmond merchant to New York 
to secure a large quantity of such wire. The merchant 
failed in his mission, but Maury undismayed set about 
devising mines which could be exploded in a different 
way. Each mine consisted of an oak cask filled with 
200 pounds of powder, in the head of which was a trigger 
attached to a fuse. The casks were joined together 
in pairs by 500 feet of rope, and when in a favorable 
position were let go to be carried by the tide down upon 
an enemy ship in such a way as to have the rope catch 
across the cable of the vessel. As the mines drifted near 
the ship, the strain on the rope would release the triggers, 
ignite the fuses, and explode the mines. 

Early in July, 1861, Maury himself commanded an ex- 
pedition from Sewell's Point near Norfolk, which made 
an attempt to destroy the Union vessels Minnesota^ 
Roanoke, and Cumberland, then off Fortress Monroe. 
The attacking party in five boats set off about ten 
o'clock. Maury was in the first boat with the pilot and 
four oarsmen ; while each of the others carried an ofhcer 
and four men, together with one of the mines. It was a 
very quiet Sunday evening, and as the enemy had no 
guard boats, the attacking party was able, under mufifiied 
oars, to take up a position near enough for their purpose 
just as seven bells struck on board the intended victims. 
The mines were immediately set adrift, and the boats 



HIS PART IN THE CIVIL WAR 149 

rowed away. But no explosions followed, for something 
had gone wrong with the mechanism of the mines. 
Afterwards it was found that the type of fuse which had 
been used would not burn in a pressure of twenty feet 
of water, the depth at which the mines had been floated. 
Later, the torpedoes, as they were then called, were 
discovered by the Federals, taken out of the water, and 
carried away as relics. 

Maury was not overly discouraged, but returned to 
Richmond to continue his experiments so as to perfect 
an apparatus which would be more successful next time. 
These experiments were made possible through the 
assistance of the Richmond Medical College, which fur- 
nished batteries and offered the use of its laboratory, 
and by the help of the Tredegar Iron Works as well as 
those of Talbot and Son. Maury carried on these experi- 
ments at the house of his cousin Robert H. Maury in 
Richmond at 1105 East Clay Street, which was marked 
in 1910 by the Confederate Memorial Society with this 
commemorative inscription: ** In this house, Matthew 
Fontaine Maury, LL. D., U. S. N., C. S. N., invented 
the submarine Electrical Torpedo, 1861-62". 

While engaged in this work, Maury set forth his hopes 
of success in the following letter: "I am experimenting 
upon my deep sea batteries and so far, as difficulties have 
presented themselves, they have one by one been over- 
come. I shall be ready for demonstration next week I 
hope. . . . Then if I can get the powder, I will launch 
in the Potomac, the Chesapeake, and its tributaries 
hundreds of these things in pairs, each pair connected by 
a line several hundred feet in length and in such a manner 
that if the line fouls the vessel while she is at anchor, or 
any vessel crosses the line while she is under weigh, the 



150 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

tightening of the line will pull a trigger and let the things 
off. I think I can drive the enemy out of the Chesa- 
peake. This is a business, this thing of blowing up men 
while they are asleep, that I don't glory in. . . .1 
shall endeavor to pick up and save the crews from 
drowning". 

Maury was not given an opportunity to demonstrate 
his improved mine, until late in July or early in August, 
1861, when the Secretary of the Navy, the Governor of 
Virginia, and the Chairman of the Committee of Naval 
Affairs consented to witness a trial on the James River 
at Rocketts, where the James River Steamboat Com- 
pany's wharf is now located. Maury thus describes the 
trial : "I made a pair of submarine batteries. Your man 
Mallory pronounced them humbugs. I got him and 
Conrad (Chairman of Naval Affairs Committee, House 
of Representatives) to go and see them blow up the 
James River. I put them adrift aiming them at a buoy. 
They caught, drifted down, tightened the rope, pulled 
the trigger, and off they went blowing the river, or some 
of it, sky high and killing innumerable fish. So Mallory 
after that asked for an appropriation of $50,000 to enable 
me to go ahead". 

This money was not, however, immediately forth- 
coming, and Maury complained that he was forced to 
lay on his oars and wait for the word from Congress, *'Go 
ahead!" He also wrote that he was anxious to mine the 
river passes to both Richmond and Fredericksburg with 
these submarine batteries which would be exploded by 
electricity, but that lack of materials was delaying the 
project. During this delay, he planned another attack 
on the Union ships off Newport News. This material- 
ized in an attempt which was made, on October 10, by 



HIS PART IN THE CIVIL WAR 151 

Lieutenant Robert D. Minor to sink the Savannah and 
the Minnesota, but this second trial also met with failure. 
Maury had planned to take part himself in the attack, 
but was prevented from doing so by his being ordered to 
Richmond with the expectation of being sent to mine the 
Mississippi River. He did not, however, go on this 
mission, though he had considerable correspondence with 
General Polk, who wished to place mines in the river at 
Columbus, Kentucky. Some mines were sent to Mem- 
phis with full instructions as to how they should be 
planted ; and here others were constructed, after Maury's 
model, to be used elsewhere on the river. 

About the first of May, 1862, Maury had the good 
fortune to secure ten miles of insulated wire which en- 
abled him to mine the James River with electric mines, 
according to the plans which he had been compelled to 
lay aside for several months for lack of material. This 
wire had been used by the Federals in attempting to lay 
a submarine telegraph across the Chesapeake from 
Fortress Monroe to Eastville; but having been forced 
to abandon the attempt, they left the wire in the water 
and the waves cast it upon the beach near Norfolk where 
a friend, Dr. Morris, secured it for Maury's use. 

The following report describes the mines that were 
then constructed and relates how they were laid down 
in the James River early in June, 1862: 'The James 
River is mined with fifteen tanks below the iron battery 
at Chapin's (Chafiin's) Bluff. They are to be exploded 
by means of electricity. Four of the tanks contain 160 
pounds of powder; the eleven others hold 70 pounds 
each. All are made of boiler plate. They are arranged 
in rows as per diagram, those of each row being 30 feet 
apart. Each tank is contained in a water-tight wooden 



152 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

cask, capable of floating it but anchored and held below 
the surface from three to eight feet, according to the 
state of the tide. The anchors of each are an 18-inch 
shell and a piece of kentledge, so placed as to prevent 
the barrels from fouling the buoy ropes at the change of 
the tide. Each shell of a row is connected with the one 
next to it by a stout rope thirty feet long and capable of 
lifting it in case the cask be carried away. The casks are 
water-tight, as are also the tanks, the electric cord enter- 
ing through the same head. 

"The wire for the return current from the battery is 
passed from shell to shell and along the connecting rope, 
which lies at the bottom. The wire that passes from 
cask to cask is stopped slack to the buoy rope from the 
shell up to the cask, to which it is securely seized to 
prevent any strain upon that part which enters the cask. 
The return wire is stopped in like manner down along 
the span to the next shell, as per the rough sketch. At 
4 (in the sketch) the two cords are frapped together, 
loaded with trace chains a fathom apart, and carried 
ashore to the galvanic battery. 

"For batteries we have 21 Wollastons, each trough 
containing eighteen pairs of plates, zinc and iron, ten 
by twelve inches. The first range is called 1, the second 
2, and the third 3, and the wires are so labeled. Thus 
all of each range are exploded at once. 

"Besides these, there are two ranges of two tanks each, 
planted opposite the battery at Chapin's Bluff. When 
they were planted, it was not known that a battery was 
to be erected below. These four tanks contain about 
6,000 pounds of powder. The great freshet of last month 
carried away the wires that were to operate the first 



HIS PART IN THE CIVIL WAR 153 

pair, 'A' (in a diagram enclosed, which showed the exact 
location of the various mines). 

"Lieutenant Davidson, who with the Teaser and her 
crew has assisted me with a most hearty good will, has 
dragged for the tanks without success. They rest on 
the bottom. Could they be found, it was my intention 
to raise the four, examine them, and, if found in good 
order, place them below the range, T. 

''Lieutenant William L. Maury, assisted by Acting 
Master W. F. Carter and R. Rollins, was charged with 
the duty of proving the tanks and packing them in casks. 
There are eleven others, each containing 70 pounds of 
powder. When tested in the barrels and found ready 
for use, they will be held in reserve in case of accident to 
those already down. A larger number was not prepared, 
for the want of powder. There are a quantity of ad- 
mirable insulated wire, a number of shells for anchors or 
torpedoes, and a sufficient quantity of chains for the 
wires remaining. They will be put in the navy store for 
safe-keeping. The galvanic batteries; viz., 21 WoUas- 
tons and 1 Cruikshank, the latter loaned by Dr. Maupin 
of the University of Virginia, with spare acids, sulphuric 
and nitric, are at Chapin's Bluff in charge of Acting 
Master Cheeney. He has also in jugs a sufficient 
quantity mixed to work the batteries, and ready to be 
poured in for use. 

"It is proper that I should mention to the Department 
in terms of commendation the ready and valuable assist- 
ance afforded by Dr. Morris, president telegraph com- 
pany, and his assistant, especially by Mr. Goldwell. 
My duties in connection with these batteries being thus 
closed, I have the honor to await your further orders". 



154 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

Maury was relieved, on the 20th of June, 1862, by 
Lieutenant Hunter Davidson of the duty of ''devising, 
placing, and superintending submarine batteries in the 
James River". Davidson was at the time in command 
of the Teaser, and to signalize his new appointment, he 
had the misfortune, on July 4, of losing his ship to the 
enemy, together with the diagrams showing the exact 
position of the mines already laid down. 

Although Maury's participation in this new field of 
warfare had extended over only a little more than the 
first year of the war, still his pioneer work therein de- 
serves high consideration as it laid the foundation for 
experiments by other Confederate officers, and these 
mines, electric and otherwise, resulted in the loss during 
the war of a large number of Union ships, varying from 
20 to 58 according to different authorities. These facts 
bear out the following claim made by Maury: "All the 
electrical torpedoes in that (James) river were prepared 
and laid down either by myself or by Lieutenant David- 
son who relieved me after having been instructed by me 
as to the details of the system. These were the first 
electrical torpedoes that were successfully used against 
an enemy in war". 

Maury did not pretend that the idea was original 
with him. Robert Fulton had had a device for firing a 
mine by electricity, but had never succeeded in making 
his battery work. Also Colonel Colt experimented with 
some success with such mines as early as 1842. Maury's 
work was so important because he was the first to dem- 
onstrate that such weapons could be made of practical 
use in warfare. He has, however, been given almost no 
credit, until recently, for this pioneer work. Even 
Jefferson Davis, in his "Rise and Fall of the Confederate 



HIS PART IN THE CIVIL WAR 155 

Government", makes no mention of Maury's name in 
connection with the electric mines, but gives all the 
honor to General Gabriel J. Rains, who did not become 
head of the Torpedo Bureau until October, 1862. 
Scharf's "History of the Confederate States Navy" 
names not only Rains but also Hunter Davidson and 
Beverly Kennon as rivals for priority in the invention 
and practical use of the electric mine. The claim^s of the 
first two are so extravagant and so unjust to Maury as 
to merit no consideration ; while those of Kennon cannot 
'be successfully sustained in comparison with the well- 
established priority of Maury's "electrical torpedoes". 

These electric mines were not the only new naval 
weapons that Maury advocated and had a hand in 
devising. In the autumn of 1861, he wrote a series of 
articles for the Richmond Enquirer under the pseudonym 
of "Ben Bow", in which he urged the necessity of building 
a strong navy for the South without delay, and of pro- 
viding, at least, for the protection of bays and rivers 
by the construction of small ships armed with big guns. 
Maury had had in mind such a fighting craft for years, 
and as early as 1841 he had urged the building of ships 
of this sort in his "Scraps from the Lucky Bag". 

In these "Ben Bow" articles he called attention to the 
fact that the Confederate government had not as yet 
realized the need for a navy. "The sums appropriated 
by the Government", he wrote, "for building and increase 
will indicate its policy touching a navy, and show what, 
for the present, is proposed to be done. Two Navy Bills 
have passed since Virginia seceded and joined the Con- 
federacy. One was passed in May at Montgomery, 
and the other in Richmond in August. In the Mont- 
gomery Bill there is not one dime for construction or 



156 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

increase. The whole appropriation is $278,500, of which 
$100,000 is for equipment and repairs. Now a navy 
without vessels is like lamps without oil. The Richmond 
Bill gives $50,000 to buy and build steamers and gun- 
boats for coast defense, and $160,000 for two ironclad 
gunboats for the defense of the Mississippi River and 
the city of Memphis. . . . We may safely infer that 
$50,000 will neither purchase nor build a great many 
steamers or gunboats, nor enable us to provide very 
efficiently for the defense of all the rivers except the 
Mississippi, and of all the harbors, bays, creeks, and 
sounds of our coast all the way from Washington on the 
Potomac to Brownsville on the Rio Grande. Thus we 
perceive that since Virginia and North Carolina, with 
their defenseless, open, and inviting sea-front, seceded, 
the sum of only $50,000 has been voted towards the 
'purchase or construction' of a navy, for the defense of 
the entire seacoast of the Confederacy! From this 
analysis, and from all that we can see doing on the water, 
it appears that the Government has not yet decided to 
have a navy". 

It was a mistake, he thought, to believe that there was 
a magic power in cotton, that "Cotton is King" and 
could do all and more than it was possible for a navy to 
accompHsh. Along this line, he declared, "There seems 
to be a vague idea floating in the public mind of the 
South that, somehow or other, cotton is to enable us to 
do, if not entirely, at least to a great degree, what other 
nations require armies and navies to accomplish for them. 
Because cotton-wool is essential to the industry of cer- 
tain people, and because we are the chief growers of 
cotton-wool, therefore, say these political dreamers, we 
can so treat cotton, in a diplomatic way, as both to enforce 



HIS PART IN THE CIVIL WAR 157 

obedience to our revenue laws at home and secure re- 
spect to our citizens abroad. But can we? Did ever 
unprotected wealth secure immunity to its owner? In 
the first place, cotton becomes, when handled in any- 
other way than the regular commercial way, a two- 
edged sword, as apt to wound producer as consumer. 
Every obstacle, which we place between it and the chan- 
nels of commerce here, operates as a bounty for its pro- 
duction elsewhere. It is a very current but mistaken 
idea to suppose that this is the only country in the 
world properly adapted to the cultivation of cotton. No 
such thing. Should even the present paper blockade 
continue for a few years, and cotton rule at the present 
New York prices of 22 cents, or even at 15 cents, our 
political dreamers may wake up and find the cotton 
scepter, if not entirely lost to our hold, at least divided 
in our hand. . . . Suppose England and France do not 
choose for a few months to come to break this paper 
blockade, which we have not the naval strength to force, 
paper though it be, does it follow that that blockade, 
weak and ineffectual as, up to this time, it has notori- 
ously been, will continue so until those nations get ready 
to act? The amount appropriated for the Lincoln navy 
during the current year is upwards of $40,000,000. . . . 
We cannot, either with cotton or with all the agricultural 
staples of the Confederacy put together, adopt any 
course which will make cotton and trade stand us as a 
nation in the stead of a navy". 

Then followed his statement as to the kind of war 
vessels that were needed to give the Confederacy com- 
mand, at least, of its own waters, and at an expense of 
no more than three million dollars. ''In this change of 
circumstances", he wrote, ''it so happens that the navy 



158 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

which we most require is for smooth water and shallow 
places. Such a one, consisting of small vessels, can be 
quickly and cheaply built. We want at once a navy for 
our rivers and creeks and bays and sounds; a navy 
consisting chiefly of vessels that, for the most part, will 
only be required to keep the sea for a few days at a time." 
These ships would be so small as to present little more 
than a feather-edge as a target to the enemy, and there- 
fore be more invulnerable than the best shot-proof 
men-of-war. They would be not more than twenty or 
twenty-five feet broad, and with coal, crew, and guns 
aboard would float only two or three feet above the 
surface of the water. They were, in fact, to be really 
nothing but floating gun carriages, propelled by steam, 
and each was to carry two rifled cannon of the largest 
caliber. Such a ship would be able to engage, at long 
range, one of the largest ships of the Union navy, the 
Minnesota, for example; and in attacking head on, she 
would present a target of but forty square feet as com- 
pared with one of six thousand square feet of the Minne- 
sota. This, at a distance of two or three miles, would 
be a great advantage to the smaller vessel. Maury 
claimed for this type of ship facility of construction, 
rapidity in equipment, economy in outfit, and efficiency 
in battle. The cost of one hundred of these small 
vessels, including armament, engine, and machinery, he 
estimated, would be $10,000 each. 

This dogma of "big guns and Httle ships" made a very 
favorable impression on Governor Letcher and other 
prominent Virginians, and so Maury decided to bring 
the matter of their construction before the state govern- 
ment. But beyond his expectation, his plan met with 
favor in the Confederate Congress, which took over from 



HIS PART IN THE CIVIL WAR 159 

the state of Virginia the support of the measure by 
passing two acts on December 23, 1861. These author- 
ized the construction of not more than a hundred of the 
gunboats, according to a plan submitted by Maury and 
approved by a board of naval officers, and provided also 
$2,000,000 for that purpose. 

Maury set to work superintending the building of the 
gunboats on the Rappahannock and at Norfolk. They 
were 21 feet in beam and 112 feet in length, and drew 
six feet of water. Their armament consisted of a 9-inch 
gun forward and a 32-pounder aft, and each carried a 
crew of forty men. By the middle of April, 1862, 
Maury expected to have the last hull ready for the 
machinery and guns. But delay was occasioned through 
the difficulty of procuring materials, both iron and wood, 
and steam engines, and also by the lack of a sufficient 
number of mechanics. Meanwhile the Merrimac^ (C. S. 
S. Virginia) had demonstrated the great possibilities of 
iron-plated rams, and the Confederate Congress author- 
ized, on March 17, 1862, the discontinuance of all such 
construction of wooden gunboats as might retard the 
building of ironclad rams. 

Secretary of the Navy Mallory, who had not warmly 

1 Maury had some connection with the reconstruction of this vessel. In a 
lecture on "Man's Power-giving Knowledge", delivered by him to Virginia 
Military Institute students on January 23, 1871, he said, "After the burning of 
the Norfolk Navy Yard in 1861, the Governor's Council advised that the 
Merrimac should be raised and converted into an ironclad. Quick to perceive 
and prompt to act, as in the emergencies of the war he ever was, his Excellency 
caused it to be done". This is corroborated by the following entry in the 
minutes of the Council for May 11, 1861, for a meeting at which Maury was 
present: "Governor submitted for approval a proposal of B. and I. Baker of 
Norfolk to raise the wreck of the steamer Merrimac and deliver her in the Dry 
Dock at Gosport Navy Yard for $5000. . . . Advised unanunously that the 
proposed be accepted". * 



160 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

supported Maury's scheme, then suggested to President 
Davis that the fifteen already commenced be finished 
according to the original design, but that the remainder 
of the appropriation be diverted to the building of iron- 
clads. A few days later Maury wrote, "All my gunboats 
are to be converted into shot proof or abandoned". 
Thus ended in comparative failure this ambitious experi- 
ment, one that was very dear to Maury. That he held 
Mallory very much to blame is evident from the follow- 
ing: "The administration is gravely proposing to build 
here at Richmond a navy to go down and capture For- 
tress Monroe! Mai. proposed the other day that I 
should undertake to build such a navy, asserting that it 
could be done. That, I should say, is a considerable 
stirring up. Less than a year ago, I was to be banished 
for advocating a navy. Now since all our naval waters 
have been taken away and we have nowhere to float a 
navy, yet we are to have a navy to take the strongest 
fortress in America. Hurra for Mai.!" 

There were many others besides Maury who con- 
sidered that Mallory's administration of the Navy 
Department was inefficient. This is clearly shown by 
the fact that, on A^ugust 27, 1862, the Confederate 
Congress ordered a joint special committee of both 
houses to investigate the affairs of this department of the 
government. Its investigations extended from Septem- 
ber 4, 1862 until March 24, 1863, and developed a great 
deal of evidence of inefficient management ; but Mallory 
was too strong politically to be ousted from his position. 
Another severe critic of the Secretary of the Navy is 
Pollard who, in remarking on the great energy which the 
North from the beginning of the war displayed in naval 
preparations, declared, "The Confederate government 



HIS PART IN THE CIVIL WAR 161 

showed a singular apathy with respect to any work of 
defense. The Confederate Congress had made large 
appropriations for the construction of gunboats on the 
Mississippi waters; there was the best navy-yard on the 
continent opposite Norfolk ; there were valuable armories 
with their machinery at Richmond; and although the 
Confederate government was very far from competing 
with the naval resources of the enemy, yet there is no 
doubt, with the means and appliances at hand, it might 
have created a considerable fleet. In no respect was 
the improvidence of the government more forcibly illus- 
trated than in the administration of its naval affairs; or 
its unfortunate choice of ministers more signally dis- 
played than in the selection for Secretary of the Navy of 
Mr. Mallory of Florida, a notoriously weak man who 
was slow and blundering in his office and a butt in Con- 
gress for his ignorance of the river geography of the 
country ".2 

Soon after the moving of the Confederate capital to 
Richmond, Maury began to feel himself out of sympathy 
with the Southern political leaders. A week or so after 
the battle of Manassas he wrote that he had wished an 
offer of peace to be made after that victory, but that the 
politicians who had become generals wanted to increase 
their military reputation and had opposed such a step. 
He went so far as to draw up a peace message which he 
showed to the Governor of Virginia and other influential 
men. But it bore no fruit. ''My peace message", he 
declared, "is to go, I understand, after the next great 
victory. May it come soon!" He did not have a very 
high opinion of Davis's statesmanship in those early 
months of the war, but considered him haughty and self- 

2 "The Lost Cause" by Edward A. Pollard, p. 192. 



162 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

willed, and surrounded by shallow men whom he was 
using to further his own future re-election. He was 
particularly incensed with the inability of the administra- 
tion to appreciate the importance of a navy, and he 
feared that, by ignoring this service, they would permit 
Virginia to be degraded. There was talk, he declared, 
of making New Orleans or Charleston the money capital, 
and that the government was run on the theory that the 
Confederacy belonged to Cottondom and that Cotton 
meant to rule. 

Maury's strongest censures of Mallory and Davis were 
made during the November following the publication of 
his **Ben Bow" articles, which became so distasteful to 
Mallory and so alarming to his political ease of mind that 
he began to v/ish that Maury was entirely out of the 
country. Only a few days after the appearance of the 
first of these articles, he informed its author that he was 
to go to Cuba to purchase arms and other war materials, 
and said to him that in his judgment he could be better 
spared than any other officer in either army or navy. 
This intention was not, however, carried into effect; but 
Mallory continued to trifle with Maury and to prevent 
him from rendering any worthy service to the South. 

At about this time, Maury received from the Grand 
Duke Constantine an invitation to come to Russia and 
make his home there under the patronage of that govern- 
ment. The letter, which was brought to Richmond 
under a flag of truce by the Russian minister, was as 
follows: "The news of your having left a service which is 
so much indebted to your great and successful labors 
has made a very painful impression on me and my com- 
panions-in-arms. Your indefatigable researches have 
unveiled the great laws which rule the winds and currents 



HIS PART IN THE CIVIL WAR 163 

of the ocean, and have placed your name amongst those 
which will ever be mentioned with feelings of gratitude 
and respect, not only by professional men, but by all 
those who pride themselves in the great and noble 
attainments of the human race. That your name is 
well-known in Russia I need scarcely add, and though 
'barbarians', as we are still sometimes called, we have 
been taught to honor in your person disinterested and 
eminent services to science and mankind. Sincerely 
deploring the inactivity into which the present political 
whirlpool in your country has plunged you, I deem my- 
self called upon to invite you to take up your residence 
in this country, where you may in peace continue your 
favorite and useful occupations. 

"Your position here will be a perfectly independent 
one ; you will be bound by no conditions or engagements ; 
and you will always be at liberty to steer home across 
the ocean in the event of your not preferring to cast 
anchor in our remote corner of the Baltic. 

"As regards your material welfare, I beg to assure you 
that everything will be done by me to make your new 
home comfortable and agreeable; whilst at the same 
time, the necessary means will be offered you to enable 
you to continue your scientific pursuits in the way 3^ou 
have been accustomed to. I shall now be awaiting your 
reply, hoping to have the pleasure of seeing here so 
distinguished an officer, whose personal acquaintance it 
has always been my desire to make, and whom Russia 
will be proud to welcome on her soil". 

This invitation, coming at a time when Maury was 
being thwarted in his efforts to serve the Confederacy, 
must have been a great temptation. But he did not 
hesitate in declining the offer; he had cast his lot with 



164 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

Virginia and through her with the Confederacy. One 
of his daughters relates how he came to Fredericksburg to 
tell his wife and children of the offer and its rejection. 
There were two letters. "One was from His Imperial 
Highness, the Grand Duke Constantine, Grand Admiral 
of Russia", she wrote, "and one from Baron Stoeckle, 
Russian Ambassador in Washington, telling him how 
and by what route he was to travel to Russia, where he 
was to go for passports, money, advice, and information. 
My father was now fifty-seven years old. Every mari- 
time nation of Europe had given him evidences of their 
appreciation of the benefits that their commerce had 
received from the use of his Wind and Current Charts 
and Sailing Directions. He read that correspondence 
to us in my mother's bedroom, all of us gathered around 
him, before the wood fire, the young ones leaning against 
him looking into his face with eager questioning eyes as 
he read that princely offer, and told us he would not go". 
In his courteous reply to this generous invitation, 
Maury wrote that it was only his stern sense of duty that 
enabled him to withstand such inducements as none but 
the most magnanimous of princes could offer, — the 
hospitalities of a great and powerful Empire, with the 
Grand Admiral of its fleets for patron and friend. He 
assured the Grand Duke that he was grateful for the 
offer of a home on the banks of the Neva, where, in the 
midst of books and surrounded by his family and friends, 
he would be free from anxiety as to the future and have 
the most princely means and facilities for prosecuting 
those studies and continuing those philosophical labors 
in which he had taken so much delight in former years 
in Washington. He then reviewed the recent events 
that had taken place in the United States, and explained 



HIS PART IN THE CIVIL WAR 165 

why he had followed the fortunes of Virginia. 'The 
path of duty and of honor", he wrote in closing, "is 
therefore plain. By following it with the devotion and 
loyalty of a true sailor I shall, I am persuaded, have the 
glorious and proud recompense that is contained in 
the 'well done' of the Grand Admiral and his noble 
companions-in-arms. When the invader is expelled, 
and as soon thereafter as the State will grant me leave, 
I promise myself the pleasure of a trip across the Atlan- 
tic, and shall hasten to Russia that I may there in person, 
on the banks of the Neva, have the honor and the 
pleasure of expressing to her Grand Admiral the senti- 
ments of respect and esteem with which his oft-repeated 
acts of kindness, and the generous encouragement that 
he has afforded me in the pursuits of science have in- 
spired his — Obedient servant, M. F. Maury, Com- 
mander, C. S. Navy". 

In this decision, Maury acted like another great scien- 
tist, Louis Pasteur who, when he was offered a professor- 
ship in Italy in 1871 during the Commune, would not 
leave France but said, "I should consider myself a 
criminal deserving a penalty for desertion if I left my 
country in her unhappiness to seek a better paid position 
than she can give me". 

In March, 1862, Maury began to take a hand in the 
foreign affairs of the Confederacy. At this time he 
submitted to Colonel Orr, Chairman of the Senate 
Committee on Foreign Affairs, a paper setting forth the 
basis of a treaty with France. About a week later he 
wrote a long letter to Captain De Le Marche, Depot de 
la Marine, Paris, stating the commercial reasons why 
France ought to recognize the Confederacy; and these 
reasons were presented to President Davis for his 



166 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

consideration. In April, the French minister, accom- 
panied by the Prussian envoy to the United States, came 
to Richmond under a flag of truce to pay In person his 
respects to Maury, and to deliver to him an invitation 
from Emperor Napoleon to come to France to reside. 

In view of this correspondence as well as many other 
letters which he wrote to Influential people in both 
France and Great Britain, and because of the evidence 
of the high esteem for him that was shown by the Grand 
Duke Constantine and the Emperor Napoleon, it was 
natural that he came to be considered a suitable repre- 
sentative of the South In some foreign country. As 
early as April, 1862 he was approached with the offer of a 
mission to Europe to fit out armed cruisers; but time 
dragged on without the matter being brought to a con- 
clusion. He repeatedly requested of Mallory some 
active service, as he did not wish to be a drone ; and was 
told by the Secretary that he thought he would be of use 
doing nothing. In August, Mallory did at last offer 
him the command of a gunboat at Charleston, but this 
Maury declined as the vessel could not go to sea and 
was intended merely for harbor defense. 

Finally, in September, Maury was ordered to England 
on "special service". That he was not pleased with this 
duty under the conditions according to which he was 
supposed to work Is revealed in the following letter, 
which he wrote after the close of the war: "I was sent 
here really to be got out of the way, but nominally to 
superintend contracts with men of straw who could not 
pay their hotel bills but who had made pretended con- 
tracts with the Navy Department for about fifty million 
dollars and who never did anything. There was a great 
desire to have me In the Navy Department and Mallory 



HIS PART IN THE CIVIL WAR 167 

was afraid he'd be turned out. Therefore he sent me 
here with hands tied, and what I did I took the responsi- 
bihty a la Tennessee." 

With little enthusiasm, therefore, Maury made his 
preparations for departure to England. He was sad- 
dened by the necessity of parting from his family who 
had already begun to suffer from the fortunes of war. 
They had been driven from their refuge in Fredericks- 
burg when that place was captured by Union troops on 
April 18, 1862, and on the following 1st of June his son 
Richard had his horse shot from under him in battle 
and was himself severely wounded. But obedient to the 
call of duty, he bade farewell to his family who were then 
making their home with relatives in Albemarle County 
and, with his youngest son, Matthew Fontaine, Jr., he 
set out for Charleston to take ship as soon as practicable 
for his new field of work. 



CHAPTER XII 
His Part in the Civil War: In England 

Though Maury arrived in Charleston the latter part 
of September, it was not until October 12, 1862 that he 
departed with his twelve year old son "Brave" on board 
the steamer Herald to run the Union blockade. An 
attempt had been made some three days before and had 
been unsuccessful, as the vessel had run into an enemy 
sloop of war and was forced to put back within the pro- 
tection of the forts. The second trial was successful, but 
it almost ended in disaster. "We crossed the bar once", 
Maury wrote, "and when we got in about two miles of 
the enemy the pilots plumped the ship ashore, where she 
lay all night. In the morning they opened on her but 
she got off without damage". Maury certainly could 
not have looked upon capture with any feelings of pleas- 
ure, but to reassure his wife he wrote, before leaving 
Charleston, "If we get caught, I expect soon to be ex- 
changed. The Brave and I will have a bully time in 
prison". 

Nothing further of an unusual nature happened on the 
six hundred miles voyage to the Bermudas except that 
Captain Louis M. Coxetter, who had never before been 
very far from land, after groping about for the island had 
to admit on the sixth day that he was lost. 

James Morris Morgan, who as a midshipman accom- 
panied Maury to England, thus relates how the great 
scientist extricated the captain from his difficulty: "He 
(Coxetter) told Commodore Maury that something ter- 
rible must have happened, as he had sailed his ship 

168 



HIS PART IN THE CIVIL WAR 169 

directly over the spot where the Bermuda Islands ought 
to be! Commodore Maury told him that he could do 
nothing for him before ten o'clock that night and advised 
him to slow down. At ten o'clock the great scientist 
and geographer went on deck and took observations, at 
times lying flat on his back, sextant in hand, as he made 
measurements of the stars. When he had finished his 
calculations, he gave the captain a course and told him 
that by steering it at a certain speed he would sight the 
light at Port Hamilton by two o'clock in the morning. 
No one turned into his bunk that night except the 
Commodore and his little son; the rest of us were too 
anxious. Four bells struck and no light was in sight. 
Five minutes more passed and still not a sign of it ; then 
grumbling commenced, and the passengers generally 
agreed with the man who expressed the opinion that 
there was too much d . . . . d science on board and that 
we should all be on our way to Fort Lafayette in New 
York Harbor as soon as day broke. At ten minutes 
past two the masthead lookout sang out, 'Light ho!' — 
and the learned old Commodore's reputation as a navi- 
gator was saved ".^ 

Fortunately Commodore Wilkes's squadron, which 
had been hovering about the islands and overhauling all 
the ships that passed, had just departed and the 
Herald made her way unmolested into the harbor. Here 
Maury remained for more than two weeks, waiting for 
the Royal Mail Steamer Delta from St. Thom^as. During 
this time he was received as a private citizen and world- 
renowned scientist by the governor of the islands, and 
was called upon by the commandant of Fort St. George 

1 "Recollections of a Rebel Reefer", p. 100. 



170 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

and honored with a dinner on board H. M. S. Immortality 
then stationed at Port Hamilton. 

When the EngHsh ship sailed, she was followed to sea 
by the U. S. Sloops of War San Jacinto and Mohican in 
a threatening manner as though about to repeat the 
"Trent Affair" and take Maury from the vessel; but 
nothing of the sort materialized. At Halifax, where 
Maury arrived November 9, he received the most dis- 
tinguished consideration from the general commanding 
the troops, the admiral of the fleet, and the governor of 
Nova Scotia. The Confederate flag was flown from the 
top of the hotel in his honor, and the hand-organs ground 
"Dixie" under his window all day. 

Here Maury's party took passage, on November 13, 
on the Cunard Steamer Arabia, a paddlewheel fuU- 
.'jged ship plying between Liverpool and Boston. The 
ship tumbled about considerably during a great part of 
the voyage, and Maury was "as seasick and amiable as 
usual". The voyage was uneventful, and Liverpool was 
reached in safety. 

On arrival, Maury conferred with Captain James T. 
Bulloch, C. S. Navy, who had an office with Eraser, 
Trenholm, and Company, the financial agents of the 
Confederate government, at No. 10 Rumford Place. 
After a short stay in Liverpool, he went on to London to 
a house in Sackville Street which had already been en- 
gaged for him, where, according to Morgan, "All day 
long there would be in front of the house a string of 
carriages with coronets on their doors, while their owners 
were paying their respects to the great 'Lieutenant 
Maury'". Early in 1863, Maury established himself 
at Bowdon, a village about nine miles from Manchester, 



HIS PART IN THE CIVIL WAR 171 

SO that he could be near his son whom he had placed 
there in the Rose Hill School. 

At the time of Maury's arrival in England, there were, 
it appears, eight officers of the Confederate Navy in 
Europe, who were engaged in the task of securing by 
whatever means possible the much needed ships for the 
Confederacy. Captain Samuel Barron, who had been 
sent over to command the ironclad rams at that time 
being built by Lairds at Liverpool, was the flag-officer 
and in actual command, though the duties and responsi- 
bilities of the various officers were not very clearly de- 
fined and often overlapped. 

Maury's first accomplishment was the purchase, in 
March, 1863, of a new iron screw-steamer of about 560 
tons, which had just been completed at Dumbarton on 
the Clyde. She was fitted out as a merchant steamer 
under the name of the Japan, and on April 1, set sail, 
pretending to be bound for the East Indies. At about 
the same time a small steamer, the Alar, cleared from 
New Haven for St. Malo with Commander William 
Lewis Maury and a staff of officers together with guns, 
ammunition, and other supplies. The two ships met 
off Ushant, where the war material was placed on board 
the larger vessel. Commander Maury, a cousin to 
M. F. Maury, then commissioned her a Confederate 
man-of-war with the name Georgia. 

The ship at once began a cruise which lasted seven 
months and resulted in the capture of eight or nine ves- 
sels, amounting to a loss of $406,000. After cruising 
over the South Atlantic and calling at Bahia, Brazil, 
where she fell in with the Alabama, and at Capetown, 
she made her way in safety to Cherbourg, France, where 
she arrived during the night of October 28-29. Here 



172 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

Commander Maury was detached because of ill health, 
and the ship was refitted. But she was fated not to go 
out on another cruise. The vessel was not adapted to 
the service for which she was required ; her coal capacity 
was limited and the consumption of fuel on her was made 
very large because she lacked great sail-power and 
always had to chase under steam. She did, however, 
slip out past the Union ships on guard, and made her 
way to the Mediterranean to a rendezvous with the 
C. S. S. Rappahannock on the coast of Morocco. Here 
her battery, ammunition, and a part of her crew were to 
be transferred to the other vessel, and she was then to 
be sold. But the French kept such a close watch on 
the Rappahannock that she was not able to leave the 
harbor of Calais, and the Georgia was at last forced to 
turn about and make her way to Bordeaux. She was 
then ordered to Liverpool, where on the 10th of May, 
1864, she was put out of commission and sold to an 
Englishman by the name of Edward Bates for about 
15,000 pounds. She was then captured in August of 
that year by Captain T. T. Craven of the U. S. S. 
Niagara, and sent to Boston, where she was condemned; 
and afterwards the owner's claim for damages was dis- 
allowed by the Mixed Commission at Washington. 

Maury was instructed by the Secretary of the Navy, 
on June 8, 1863, to purchase another ship. This order, 
however, did not reach him until two months afterwards, 
and he was not able to carry it out until the month of 
November, when he secured a condemned dispatch boat 
belonging to the Royal Navy. This was the Victor, 
a screw-steamer of about 500 tons which had been offered 
for sale at Sherness. For fear of being stopped, Maury 
hurried her to sea on the wintry night of November 24, 



HIS PART IN THE CIVIL WAR 173 

with workmen still on board and with only a few of her 
intended crew. Her officers joined her in the Channel, 
where she was commissioned the Rappahannock, Two 
days later she entered the harbor of Calais under the 
guise of a Confederate ship in distress. Here the 
French threw such restrictions about her as to prevent 
her from even making an attempt to leave port. Some 
endeavors were made to sell the vessel, but the war came 
to an end before this could be accomplished and the ship 
was eventually turned over to the United States. Her 
commanding officer had considered her a poor ship for 
commerce destroying, because her machinery took up 
too much space and her magazine was so large as to leave 
but little room for crew and provisions. The ship was 
often referred to as "The Confederate White Elephant", 
but she did serve the very useful purpose of keeping 
two United States war vessels constantly off Calais to 
prevent her from going to sea. 

Maury and the other Confederate agents had great 
obstacles to meet in securing ships, and probably did as 
well as possible under the circumstances. Federal 
agents were constantly on the watch to see that French 
and British neutrality was strictly observed, and besides 
Maury and his associates were greatly handicapped by 
the lack of money for the purchase of vessels and the 
insufficiency of both officers and their crews. "If I had 
had money and officers", wrote ]\Iaury, *T could since I 
have been here have fitted out half a dozen just as good 
to prey upon the Yankee commerce as the Alabama''. 

Maury also had a hand in the attempt to have two 
ironclad rams constructed in a French port for the Con- 
federate government, one of which he hoped to have the 
privilege of commanding. The specifications for such 



174 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

vessels were these: ability to cross the Atlantic, hulls 
of wood and iron with two armored turrets, engines of 
300 horsepower which would give great momentum and a 
speed of fifteen or sixteen knots, two twin screw pro- 
pellers, and a draft of fifteen feet. His general plan and 
the cost of construction were approved by Secretary 
Mallory, and on July 16, 1863 the contract was signed 
between Bulloch and L. Arman, a naval constructor at 
Bordeaux, for the building of the two steam rams. But 
these ships of war were destined never to be finished for 
the Confederacy, for the turn of events in America and 
the attitude of Great Britain caused the Emperor 
Napoleon to shift his position diplomatically and main- 
tain a strict neutrality, though at one time, according to 
Maury's diary, the Emperor had written to Arman for 
a description of the guns with which the rams were to 
be armed in order that the French government might 
superintend their fabrication, and test them to see if 
they were properly constructed. 

Maury was engaged in other activities in England and 
on the Continent which were altogether political in their 
nature. He had a European reputation for his literary 
and scientific attainments, and was peculiarly well quali- 
fied to bring the Southern version of the causes, progress, 
and probable outcome of the war before an influential 
class of people. Upon his arrival in England he began 
at once to exert this influence, both privately and pub- 
licly. As an example of the latter form of propaganda 
was a letter which he addressed to the editor of the 
London Times. This appeared in that newspaper on 
December 22, 1862, and set forth a sanguine account of 
conditions in the South as he had recently seen them, and 



HIS PART IN THE CIVIL WAR 175 

sought to impress upon the British the hopefulness of 
the Southern cause. 

On October 7 of that year, Gladstone, the Chancellor 
of the Exchequer, had said at a banquet at Newcastle, 
'There is no doubt that Jefferson Davis and other 
leaders of the South have made an army; they are 
making, it appears, a navy; and they have made, what 
is more than either — they have made a nation". The 
speech caused a sensation, and was received with cheers. 
"We may anticipate", he also declared, "with certainty 
the success of the Southern States so far as their separa- 
tion from the North is concerned". ^ Maury had reason, 
therefore, for being at first very hopeful of European 
recognition and intervention, and was not merely draw- 
ing on his imagination when he wrote, "The Emperor 
may, and I hope will, decide on recognition and there are 
hopes here that when Parliament meets, February 5, 
the British government may find itself compelled to do 
something". 

In a short time, however, his eyes began to be opened, 
and he saw that, though great admiration was expressed 
for the bravery of the soldiers and the heroism of the 
women of the South, such sympathy was more apparent 
than real and was confined mostly to the upper classes. 
He began to realize that, since 1850, a million and a half 
had gone from the English middle class and settled in 
the North, and that their relatives and friends at home 
naturally sympathized with that section in the war. 

Toward the close of the year 1863, Maury drew up a 
"Recast of Resolutions, etc." for a Southern sympa- 

2 "History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850" by James 
Ford Rhodes, IV, 339. 



176 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

thizer, the Reverend Dr. Tremlett, of London, and for 
his 2000 parishioners, the purpose of which was the 
organization of a society to encourage remonstrance 
against the war. This developed into the ''Society for 
Obtaining the Cessation of HostiHties in America", 
which was very active during the year 1864. It had its 
headquarters at 215 Regent Street, London, and num- 
bered among its officers and members many very influ- 
ential persons. Leaflets and pamphlets were drawn up 
and distributed, which called upon the participants to 
bring the strife and bloodshed, the misery and suffering 
to a close. Many of these petitions were read in the 
churches of both Ireland and England, and signatures 
representing several millions of British people were 
secured. By that time, however, the war had advanced 
to that stage in which no such petitions could affect the 
North and only the complete collapse of the Confederacy 
would bring the struggle to an end. 

In addition to this work as a propagandist which was 
carried on more or less in the open, Maury was also 
concerned in political intrigues with the Emperor 
Napoleon and Maximilian of Austria. These matters 
were veiled in secrecy, of course; and it is difficult to 
determine, at this late day, the exact extent of Maury's 
operations. But there is evidence that it was very 
considerable. Napoleon had succeeded in conquering 
Mexico, and the crown had been offered to the Archduke 
Maximilian of Austria. Maury, who in the old days in 
Washington had had correspondence with this Austrian 
prince, thought the time opportune to write to him 
concerning a scheme which he thought might be greatly 
to the advantage of both Mexico and the Confederacy. 
The plan was the offer of assistance in the separation 



HIS PART IN THE CIVIL WAR 177 

of California from the Union and its restoration to 
Mexico. Maury hoped that, in this way, foreign com- 
pHcations would arise, which would result in European 
intervention that would bring the war to a close. 

At first, the scheme was received with great favor by 
Maximilian. Meanwhile, Napoleon changed his mind 
concerning any plan he may have once had for the recog- 
nition of the Confederacy and intervention in her behalf, 
probably because of England's repeated refusals to join 
with him in any such action. As Bulloch says, 'The 
invitation to build ships in France was given during the 
period of successful resistance at the South, and of ap- 
parent doubt and trepidation at the North. It was 
withdrawn when force of numbers and immeasurable 
superiority in war material began to prevail, and when 
aid and encouragement was most needed by the weaker 
side. It suited the Imperial policy, and appeared to be 
consistent with the designs upon Mexico, to extend a 
clandestine support to the South when the Confederate 
armies were still strong and exultant". ^ Accordingly, 
when Maximilian visited the Emperor in Paris to consult 
in regard to his acceptance of the Mexican throne, he 
was persuaded by Napoleon to give up his plan of 
recognizing the Confederacy and entering into intimate 
relations with that government; and he did not receive 
Slidell, the Confederate representati:ve, in Paris, as he 
had fully expected to do. Nothing further came of 
Maury's plan. Maximilian was proclaimed Emperor 
of Mexico by a deputation from that country at the 
Archduke's palace at Mirarmar on the Adriatic, on 
April 10, 1864; and on the 15th of that month he em- 

3 "The Secret Service of the Confederate States in Europe", James D. 
Bulloch, II, 62-63. 



178 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

barked for Vera Cruz, without making any further ad- 
vances toward the Confederacy. 

So much, then, for Maury's endeavors to secure ships 
of war for the Confederacy, his work as a propagandist, 
and his poHtical intrigues. But a fourth activity of his 
remains to be considered. This had to do with experi- 
ments with electric mines, — a continuation of that pio- 
neer work in this field which he had commenced in 
Richmond early in the war. It has often been stated 
that this was the primary object of his mission to 
England; but certainly neither his correspondence nor 
his diary, which was begun at Bowdon on April 27, 1863, 
not very long after his arrival abroad, bear out this 
impression. The fact is, that not until after the com- 
parative failure of his other plans and projects did 
Maury devote much time and attention to these experi- 
ments. Then from July, 1864 up to the time of his 
departure from England the following spring, everything 
indicates that his mind was absorbed with the electric 
mine. 

It was not the fault of Maury, however, that this 
weapon was not more quickly developed, and used more 
effectively in the war. ''I saw", he bitterly complained 
in one of his letters, "that he did spring at least one mine 
on Farragut's ships (in the Battle of Mobile Bay). It is 
so strange to me that sensible men will require to see 
ship after ship blown up before they will have faith in 
submarine mining. Don't you remember some drawings 
that cousin John was making for me in the fall or winter 
of 1861? That was a plan for mining our channel ways, 
and our authorities have not yet faith in it to make of it 
a regular organized system of defense". Even as late 
as November, 1864 he wrote in his diary: "The question 



HIS TART IN THE CIVIL WAR 179 

may be asked why I do not hasten home with this 
information and knowledge? Who — for Davis and 
Mallory are bitter enemies — will believe my report? 
The importance of a navy and the value of submarine 
mining were urged upon them by me from the beginning. 
Moreover, I have written both the Secretary of War and 
the Secretary of the Navy urging these things, and here I 
am ordered to lie. Another thing, since the whole field is 
so new I can be of more service here in traversing and 
exhausting it with experiments where mechanical facili- 
ties and appliances are so abundant. I report results 
as fast as I obtain them and in a manner, as to circum- 
stances and details, so minute that they may be brought 
into play as well as though I were there. Finally, I 
think it best since so it must be". 

The results of Maury's experiments in the electric 
mine while in England are embodied in the following 
agreement, made April 11, 1865 with an English electrical 
engineer as agent: "My dear Sir, — My own experiments 
show that the electrical torpedo or mine has not hitherto 
been properly appreciated as a means of defense in war. 
It is as effective for the defense as ironclads and rifled 
guns are for the attack. Indeed, such is the progress 
made in what may be called the new department of mili- 
tary engineering that I feel justified in the opinion that 
hereafter in all plans for coast, harbor, and river defenses 
and in all works for the protection of cities and places 
whether against the attack by armies on land or ships 
afloat, the electrical torpedo is to play an important 
part. It will not only modify and strengthen existing 
plans but greatly reduce the expense of future systems. 
These experiments have resulted in some important 
improvements and contrivances, not to say inventions 



180 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

and discoveries, which have been fully made known to 
you verbally. The communication was confidential and 
for the purpose of making you a party interested in bring- 
ing the subject into proper notice. It was also verbally 
agreed that you should undertake to negotiate with 
certain powers for the adoption of this new system of 
defense as improved by me and grants made therefor 
should be shared between us, I receiving one half of the 
full amount so granted without charge or deduction of 
any sort. 

''The only restrictions placed upon you in this matter 
are: 1. The enemies of my country are not for any con- 
sideration whatever to have the benefits of these im- 
provements. On the contrary, on making them known 
to others, you are to make them known in confidence 
and with a clause in the agreement especially providing 
against publicity and stipulating that the plan shall not 
be made known to any Yankee or his government. 
2. I had already offered to H. I. H. Grand Duke Con- 
stantine, as a token of acknowledgment for his great 
kindness and friendly consideration shown me and mine, 
when this war broke out, to place all these my discoveries 
and improvements at his feet and for the use of his 
government. I have referred him to you as my confidant 
and friend who is fully prepared to carry out my plans 
in all their details, or who will explain them in confidence 
to any person he may appoint. You are to make no 
charge, therefore, for imparting this information, at 
his request, and should he or his government think 
proper to offer me an honorarium, it is not to be shared 
by you. 3. My friend. Captain M. Jansen of the Dutch 
Navy who resides at Delft, has assisted me in a part of 
these experiments. We are as brothers. All that I 



HIS PART IN THE CIVIL WAR 181 

have done is known to him and he has the authority to 
use the information acquired for his own government, 
provided he may be personally benefited thereby. The 
restriction here is, that should you deem it worth while 
to bring the subject before the Dutch government you 
will first confer with Captain Jansen and shape your 
course accordingly. Should you effect a negotiation 
there, please turn over to him my share of the Dutch 
grant. 4. I restrict you also as to Mexico. Leave that 
to me. Should, however, any negotiation be entered 
into with that government, I shall refer the authorities 
to you for the articles such as wire, etc. required. 

"Such in substance is our verbal understanding. But 
as I am about to leave England, it becomes proper, for 
more reasons than one, that we should make a memoran- 
dum of agreement in writing, to the end of making it 
good in law and binding also upon our heirs and assigns. 
With this view, this writing is drawn and the following 
statement is added. The points upon which this system 
hangs and which give special value to the information 
imparted to you concerning it are mainly these: 1. A 
plan for determining by cross bearings when the enemy 
is in the torpedo field of destruction and for 'making 
connections' among the torpedo wires in a certain way 
and by which the concurrence of each of two operators 
becomes necessary for the explosion of any one or more 
torpedoes. This plan requires each operator to be so 
placed or stationed that a line drawn straight from them 
to the place of the torpedoes may intersect as nearly 
as practicable at right angles. And it requires the con- 
nection to be such that each operator may put his station 
in or out of circuit at will. When the torpedoes are laid, 
a range for each station is established for every torpedo 



182 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

or group of torpedoes. When either operator observes 
an enemy in range with any torpedo, he closes his circuit 
for that torpedo. If the enemy before getting out of 
this range should enter the range for any torpedo from 
the other station, the operator there closes his circuit 
and discharges the igniting spark. Consequently, if the 
ranges belong to the same torpedo, its explosion takes 
place. But if not, there will be no explosion. Hence, 
here is an artifice by which explosion becomes impossible 
when the enemy is not in the field of destruction and sure 
when she is. 2. The Electrical Gauge, a contrivance of 
my own which you perfectly understand and some of 
which you have already made ; by means of it one of the 
tests which the igniting fuse has to undergo before it is 
accepted is applied. By means of it, the operators can 
telegraph through the fuse to each other without risk to 
the torpedoes and by which the torpedoes may without 
detriment to their explosibility be tested daily or as often 
as required. And thus the operators can at all times 
make sure that all is right. 3. A plan for planting tor- 
pedoes where the water is too deep for them to lie on the 
bottom and explode with effect, by which they will not 
interfere with the navigation of the channels and by 
which, when the enemy makes his appearance, they 
may by the touch of a key be brought instantly into the 
required position at the required depth. These con- 
trivances are very simple. They are readily understood 
from verbal description. They require neither models 
nor drawings for illustration. You understand them 
all. They are of little or no value except to governments 
and, as against these letters of patent are of no use, I 
have not deemed letters patent desirable. I have every 



HIS PART IN THE CIVIL WAR 183 

confidence in you and therefore intrust the whole secret 
to your keeping and discretion. Having thus placed 
myself in your hands, let us make this agreement binding 
also upon our heirs and assigns, and to this end I propose 
that the necessary steps be at once taken. Yours truly, 
M. F. Maury, Confederate Navy. To Nath. J. Holmes, 
Esq." 

Maury had at this time fully decided to return to the 
Confederate States in the spring, and was then arranging 
his affairs in England with that end in view. He hoped 
to arrive there early enough to make use of his electric 
mines in the land warfare of the spring campaign. He 
had recently undergone a surgical operation, and his 
friends in England were very much opposed to his going 
home, some of them being of the opinion that by the time 
he arrived Richmond would have been abandoned and 
he would have no home to go to. But he conceived it 
to be his duty to return, as he might be of greater service 
there than he was abroad. 

Before the date he had set for sailing, May 2, Lee had 
surrendered at Appomattox and Lincoln had been 
assassinated; still Maury did not change his plans, but 
sailed on the Royal Mail Steamer Atrato with a quantity 
of insulated wire, copper tanks, magnetic exploders, etc. 
for Havana with the hope of being able to keep open 
Galveston or some other port on the coast of Texas. 

He had worried a great deal about the members of his 
family who were in the Confederate service. "My 
dreams", he wrote in January, 1863, "are nightly of 
death and mutilation of children and friends". Just 
four days after this date his son John, who was at Vicks- 
burg on the staff of General Dabney H. Maury, disap- 



184 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

peared while reconnoitering the enemy alone, and was 
never heard of again. ^ News of this unfortunate event 
did not reach the father until April 8, 1863, and soon 
afterwards he wrote as follows on the evils of war: *'War 
is a great scourge, and this has touched you and me and 
many a good fellow with a heavy hand. As I look out 
upon the landscape that lies before my window, and see 
the men and women working in the fields, and the fields 
smiling to man's husbandry, when I see no marks of the 
spoiler, and recognize that each one is safe in his person 
and secure in his possessions, then it is I see peace, and 
think of my poor country with a sigh, and, oh, with what 
reflections. Thoughts on thoughts a countless throng', 
bless your hearts — you and John — for comforting, with 
so much solicitude and affection, my poor dear wife in her 
affliction! Good brothers are you both. How lovely 
and beautiful are the memories of my Johnny ! I wonder 
if all parents think of their dead as I do of mine. Bless 
that sleeping boy ! Never did he, in his whole life, do one 
single act that either displeased or grieved me or his 
mother. 'He never offended'. What an epitaph; and 
how proudly I write it ! But where is the end of this war 
to find us — where you and yours, me and mine, and 
where so many that are dear and near to us? Our 
charming circle of relations is, I fear, broken up, never, 
never to be restored on this side of the grave". 

* Of this son Maury wrote in the family Bible: "Our noble son, John Hem- 
don, went out from Vicksburg, Miss., alive, on the 27th day of January, 1863, 
to reconnoiter the enemy. A few hours afterwards his horse was seen without 
a rider, but nothing was ever heard of him. From the footprints and other 
signs and marks on the levee, it is supposed that he was surprised by a scouting- 
party of the enemy in ambush within our lines and done to death. Comely in 
person, lovely in disposition, generous and brave, he loved right and hated 
wrong. Precious in the eyes of his parents, he was very dear to our hearts". 



HIS PART IN THE CIVIL WAR 185 

His family had been made refugees three different 
times, and Maury had been much concerned over their 
needs and probable sufferings. He wrote in the summer 
of 1864 to Dr. Tremlett from the Duke of Buckingham's 
palace at Stow, *'I had a letter to-day of May 7th from 
my daughter Nannie, and she says, 'Flour has gone to 
$100 per barrel — too high for us — but meal is cheaper, 
thank God !' . . . *We had for dinner to-day soup made 
out of nothing, and afterwards a shin. *Twas good, I 
tell you ; we all dote on shins'. And again, from my little 
Lucy, 'Ham and mashed potatoes to-day for dinner; and, 
as it was my birthday (9th May), Mamma said I might 
eat as much as I wanted'. Here, you see, there is no 
complaining, but only a gentle lifting of the curtain, 
which in their devotion and solicitude they have kept 
so closely drawn before me. With this pitiful picture 
in my mind's eye, I felt as if I must choke with the 
sumptuous viands set before me on the Duke's table. 
Alas, my little innocents!" 

So it was with a heavy heart and the future all dark 
that he and his young son set sail, after an absence of 
more than two years, for home, — the home which Maury 
himself was not to see until several more years of exile 
had been spent in foreign lands. 



CHAPTER XIII 
With Maximilian in Mexico 

When Maury reached St. Thomas in the West Indies, 
about the middle of May, 1865, he learned from the 
newspapers that the Confederacy had completely col- 
lapsed, but he continued his voyage to Havana. From 
here his son Matthew, Jr. was sent on home to Virginia; 
while Maury himself waited to consider what was best 
for him to do — an old man now broken in health and 
ruined in finances, separated from family and friends, and 
without home or country. 

Though he had saved practically nothing from the 
wreck of his financial fortunes, caused by the war, yet 
his sterling honesty would not permit him to sell the 
torpedo material and appropriate the money, to which 
he then had as good a right as any other individual. 
His conduct of the affairs of the Confederacy in England 
had been marked with this same scrupulous honesty, 
in the expenditure of nearly $400,000. Before leaving 
that country, all the vouchers for that sum were turned 
over to Bulloch, correct to a figure, as attested by the 
following letter: "Neither can I close this, perhaps my 
last letter on business matters, without observing that 
although the custom here would have sanctioned your 
receiving a large per centum in the way of commission on 
contracts, purchases, and disbursements made by me, 
yet you constantly set your face against it and never to 
my certain knowledge received one shilling". 

Maury came out of the war, with no money but with 
a clear conscience. 'T left", he wrote his wife, "$30,000 
or $40,000 worth of torpedoes, telegraphic wire, etc. 

186 



WITH MAXIMILIAN IN MEXICO 187 

which I bought for the defense of Richmond. Bulloch 
paid for them but they were left in Havana at the break- 
up, subject to my orders. I write by this mail directing 
that they be turned over to Bulloch. Now they don't 
belong to him, neither do they to me. But it is quite a 
relief to get rid of them by transferring them to a man 
who I am sure will make the most proper use of them. 
I did not want any of the $10,000 or $20,000 which they 
will bring, though some one will get it who has no more 
right to it than I have". 

Now that Virginia had laid down her arms, Maury 
thought it proper to write a formal surrender of his 
sword. He accordingly sent the following letter to the 
officer in command of the United States naval forces in 
the Gulf of Mexico: "In peace as in war I follow the 
fortunes of my native old state (Virginia). I read in 
the putlic prints that she has practically confessed de- 
feat and laid down her arms. In that act mine were 
grounded also. I am here without command, officially 
alone, and am bound on matters of private concern 
abroad. Nevertheless, and as I consider further re- 
sistance worse than useless, I deem it proper formally so 
to confess, and to pledge you in the words of honor that, 
should I find myself before the final inauguration of peace 
within the jurisdiction of the United States, to consider 
myself a prisoner of war, bound by the terms and con- 
ditions which have been or may be granted to General 
Lee and his officers. Be pleased to send your answer 
through my son (Colonel R. L. Maury), a prisoner of 
war on parole in Richmond. In the meantime, and 
until I hear to the contrary, I shall act as though my 
surrender had been formally accepted on the above- 
named terms and conditions". 



188 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

The status of Confederate agents abroad, at the close 
of the war, was a very precarious one. As Bulloch 
writes, 'The civil as well as the military and naval 
representatives of the Confederate States abroad were 
excluded from 'pardon', under the so-called Amnesty 
Proclamations, which were issued immediately after the 
war, and none of them could have returned to the United 
States without the certainty of arrest, imprisonment, or, 
under the most favorable circumstances, the alternative 
of taking what has not been inaptly called the 'iron-clad 
oath' ".1 

All of Maury's friends were united in advising him not 
to return to the United States until the feeling in the 
North should become less hostile. "Do not come 
home", wrote his daughter, "General Lee told me the 
other day to tell you not to". It was their opinion that 
his letter of surrender would not place him under Gen- 
eral Lee's parole, because of the association of his name 
with the fitting out of Confederate privateers, and that 
he would be arrested immediately upon his arrival. His 
brother-in-law. Dr. Brodie Herndon, wrote him a long 
letter, giving him information concerning the family and 
the future of Virginia, and advised him not to return for 
the present. "In view of the state of the public mind 
in the North at present", he wrote, "I think it would 
be decidedly unsafe for you to return to this country. 
Your absence abroad in a semi-diplomatic character, 
your prominence, and the earnest part taken by you in 
the cause, would make you a decided object of that 
S^engeance against leaders' so openly proclaimed and 
so plainly visible. In time, I hope, these vindictive 

1 "The Secret Service of the Confederate States in Europe" by James D. 
Bulloch, II, 415. 



WITH MAXIMILIAN IN MEXICO 189 

feelings will subside, and then, and only then, would 
it be safe and prudent for you to return". 

Before any of this advice could reach him, Maury 
made his decision as to the course he thought would be 
best for him to pursue. This was to go to Mexico and 
take service under Maximilian. Even before leaving 
England, he had considered this as a possible eventuality, 
and had written to his friend Jansen about the possibili- 
ties of a colonization scheme in Mexico. Furthermore, 
this item in his diary, written while at sea on his way to 
the West Indies, shows that the plan was then in his 
mind: ''Secession has failed, I fear, and noble old 
Virginia is about to pass suh jugum, all owing to the 
President who, not being a statesman himself or a judge 
of one to call statesmen around him, has sacrificed our 
sons, our fortunes, and country. At least, so I fear. 
Where I am bound events will determine. I follow the 
fortunes of Virginia. If she succumbs, I shall expatriate 
myself, I think. Events alone will decide my course. 
Hey ho!" Before his arrival in Cuba, he had made up 
his mind. In a letter to Dr. Tremlett, written off San 
Domingo, he declared that he expected to go to Mexico 
to arrange for emigration from Virginia and other 
Southern states. ''If Max. is wise", he continued, "and 
will encourage my plans I can assist mightily to make 
firm the foundations of his dynasty." 

It was natural that Maury's thoughts should have 
turned to Maximilian. Before the war, he had sent to 
the Archduke, then Commander in Chief of the Imperial 
Royal Austrian Marine, a complete set of his "Sailing 
Directions"; and it was through Maximilian's hands 
that the Austrian gold medal of arts and sciences was 
conferred on him. Two years later (June 6, 1860) he 



190 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

wrote Maury, enclosing the meteorological diary which 
had been kept on board the Elizabeth on a voyage to 
South America. These marks of the Archduke's favor, 
together with Maury's more recent correspondence con- 
cerning the possible cooperation of the Southern Con- 
federacy and the new Empire of Mexico, fully warranted 
Maury's confidence in believing that he might not do 
better at this crisis in his affairs than to go to Mexico and 
serve under Maximilian. 

By the first of May, 1865, Maury had reached Vera 
Cruz. From here he went to Mexico City and wrote 
to General de la Peza, Minister of War, offering to dem- 
onstrate his electric torpedoes to him confidentially. 
Soon thereafter he offered his services to Maximilian, and 
was warmly welcomed by the Emperor and the Empress 
Carlotta. He at once laid before them his immigration 
scheme, which was very favorably received. By the first 
of August, the Emperor had decided to try the plan, and 
appointed Maury to the office of Imperial Commissioner 
of Colonization, with a salary of $5000 a year. In 
addition to this, he was made on September 23 the 
Director of the Astronomical Observatory. 

None of Maury's family was pleased with his going to 
Mexico, because of the uncertainty of MaximiHan's 
throne, and would have preferred him to return to 
England or even to go to Russia or Brazil. His friends 
were of the same opinion. **The people of Virginia", 
wrote Captain Jansen, "have shown themselves to be as 
brave as any people ever have been; but courage is 
coupled, in patriotism, with perseverance in suffering 
until better times come for Virginia. All who love her 
for what she has done ought to love her enough to suffer 
with her and for her sake. If the best people who have 



WITH MAXIMILIAN IN MEXICO 191 

made Virginia what she is desert her at this critical 
moment, it would be like children leaving their mother 
in distress. There is no virtue without sacrifice, and, 
if the Virginians possess the virtue of patriotism, they 
ought to bring her now the sacrifice of pride. Don't 
emigrate! Stand by your country with stern courage; 
learn the patience to bear without shame and with all 
the dignity of self-command. ... I don't think you 
can now return to Virginia; but in three or four years 
great changes will take place in opinions, and you nor 
your family won't find a country which would be able 
to give you anything like her sympathy, or to take 
Virginia out of your hearts and souls. You ought to go 
back to your dear state as soon as you can do so safely ; 
and if you had followed my advice you would never have 
left England, but would have asked Madame Maury 
to join you there. After a long journey and great 
inconveniences, perhaps suffering in your health and 
mind, you'll come back without gaining anything but a 
sad experience". A month later the same friend wrote, 
"As long as Max. tries to make what is called a civilized 
government, his position is unstable and I should not like 
you to stay there, how sweet and pleasant it may be in 
the shade of an Emperor's crown. But if he starts on 
an Eastern policy and succeeds, you may run the chance 
as his prime minister to become a prince of the empire, 
or to be hung or shot or something worse". 

General Lee also advised Maury against his Mexican 
scheme. "We have certainly not", he declared, "found 
our form of government all that was anticipated by its 
original founders; but this may be partly our fault in 
expecting too much, and partly due to the absence of 
virtue in the people. As long as virtue was dominant in 



192 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

the Republic, so long was the happiness of the people 
secure. I cannot, however, despair of it yet; I look 
forward to better days, and trust that time and experi- 
ence — the great teachers of men under the guidance of 
our ever-merciful God — may save us from destruction, 
and restore to us the bright hopes and prospects of the 
past. The thought of abandoning the country, and all 
that must be left in it, is abhorrent to my feelings, and I 
prefer to struggle for its restoration, and share its fate 
rather than to give up all as lost. I have a great ad- 
miration for Mexico: the salubrity of its climate, the 
fertility of its soil, and the magnificence of its scenery, 
possess for me great charms ; but I still look with delight 
upon the mountains of my native state. To remove 
our people to a portion of Mexico which would be favor- 
able to them would be a work of much difficulty. Did 
they possess the means, and could the system of appren- 
ticeship you suggest be established, the United States 
government would, I think, certainly interfere; and, 
under the circumstances, there would be difficulty in 
persuading the free men to emigrate. Those citizens 
who can leave the country, and others who may be com- 
pelled to do so, will reap the fruits of your considerate 
labors; but I shall be very sorry if your presence will 
be lost to Virginia. She has now sore need of all her 
sons, and can ill afford to lose you. I am very much 
obliged to you for all you have done for us, and hope your 
labors in the future may be as efficacious as in the past, 
and that your separation from us may not be permanent. 
Wishing you every prosperity and happiness, I am. 
Most truly yours, R. E. Lee". 

Unfortunately, this advice from his friends did not 



WITH MAXIMILIAN IN MEXICO 193 

reach Maury until after he had committed himself to 
the scheme. He was not the type of man who might 
have sat with hands folded in Havana, waiting for some 
one to offer him a position. Knowing that it would not 
be wise for him to return to Virginia at that time, and 
feeling the responsibility of having a family dependent 
upon him for support, he pursued the course which 
seemed to him wisest under the circumstances. If he 
had been in Virginia at the close of the war, and had 
been in immediate touch with the situation there and 
known the attitude of the people toward their future 
prospects, he would almost certainly have been in agree- 
ment with the views of General Lee, and other friends 
and relatives. 

Maury, accordingly went forward with his plan, the 
main features of which are embodied in the following 
decree which MaximiHan issued on September 5, 1865: 
"We, Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico, in consideration 
of the sparseness of the population in the Mexican ter- 
ritory, in proportion to its extent, desiring to give to 
immigrants all possible security for property and liberty 
and having heard the opinion of our Board of Coloniza- 
tion, do decree as follows: 

Article 1. Mexico is open to immigrants of all nations. 

Article 2. Immigration agents shall be appointed, 
whose duty it will be to protect the arrival of immigrants, 
install them on the lands assigned them, and assist them 
in every possible way in establishing themselves. These 
agents will receive the orders of the Imperial Commis- 
sioner of Immigration, especially appointed by us, and 
to whom all the communications relative to immigration 
shall be addressed. 



194 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

Article 3. Each immigrant shall receive a duly exe- 
cuted title, incommutable, of landed estate, and a certifi- 
cate that it is free of mortgage. 

Article 4. Such property shall be free from taxes for 
the first year, and also from duties on transfers of prop- 
erty, but only on the first sale. 

Article 5. The immigrants may be naturalized as soon 
as they shall have established themselves as settlers. 

Article 6. Immigrants who may desire to bring laborers 
with them, or induce them to come in considerable 
numbers, of any race whatever, are authorized to do so ; 
but those laborers will be subject to special protective 
regulations. 

Article 7. The effects of immigrants, their working 
and brood animals, seeds, agricultural implements, 
machines, and working tools, will enter free of custom- 
house and transit duties. 

Article 8. Immigrants are exempted from military 
service for five years. But they will form a stationary 
militia for the purpose of protecting their property and 
neighborhoods. 

Article 9. Liberty in the exercise of their respective 
forms of religious worship is secured to immigrants by 
the organic law of the Empire. 

Article 10. Each of our Ministers is charged with 
carrying out such parts of this Decree as relate to his 
department". 

Maury prepared a memorandum to accompany the 
decree, a set of regulations forty-two in number, and 
some general remarks on the mineral wealth, climate, 
general geographical features, and agricultural oppor- 
tunities to be found in Mexico. The immigrants were 
to be divided into two classes: Class A were those who 



WITH MAXIMILIAN IN MEXICO 195 

had lost all in the war, while Class B were those who 
were not in straitened circumstances. The first class 
were to receive a free passage to Mexico and fare at the 
rate of a real a mile to certain lands of the public domain 
which had not as yet been under cultivation, 160 acres 
to be allotted to a single man and 320 to a man with a 
family "with pre-emption right to as much more in each 
case". The other class were to buy lands from the 
government, which had been more or less under culti- 
vation, and also private haciendas, both at about one 
dollar per acre. 

That Maury enjoyed the utmost confidence and re- 
spect of the Emperor and Empress is revealed in this 
letter referring to his treatment at the palace of Chepul- 
tepec: * 'There were present the Empress, and one of her 
ladies, four German naval officers, and a Mexican — all 
were of his household, I believe. It was mail-day for 
Europe; the Emperor had been busy at the palace 
writing, he told me, seventeen letters for the steamer. 
I got there a moment before he did, so he went into the 
sitting-room which joins the Empress's chamber. He 
opened her chamber-door and said, 'Carlotta, here's 
Mr. Maury'. She came out immediately and com- 
manded me to be seated, the Emperor and the other 
gentlemen standing. Presently her lady-in-waiting 
came in; I rose, but she touched me gently on the arm 
and said, 'The Emperor wishes you always to be seated'. 
The lady stood also. In a few minutes dinner was 
announced. The Emperor led off, and we all followed 
in single file. As I passed through the door, one of the 
aids — a baron — whispered in may ear, 'On the Emperor's 
left'. The dinner — excepting the wines, the number of 
servants, and the liveries — reminded me very much of 



196 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

those Lucy Ellen (Mrs. Maury's sister-in-law) used to 
give us in our summer visits to Fredericksburg. 

"After dinner — say three-quarters of an hour — we, 
the gentlemen, led by the Emperor, went into the 
smoking-room. Gilt cigars were handed round; the 
Emperor did not smoke. Here he drew an armchair up 
into the corner, and seated me again, he and the others 
standing until their cigars were nearly finished. Then 
he took a seat, and commanded the others to be seated. 
Dispatches were handed him, some of which he handed 
to me to look into. Presently he dismissed the gentle- 
men, and said, 'Mr. Maury, you have something to say 
to me?' 'Yes, sire; I can't manage immigration through 
the Ministers. I must transact business with you di- 
rectly, and not through them ; nor must they have any- 
thing to do with it'. That's what I intend', said he". 
A short time afterwards colonization was placed entirely 
in Maury's hands and unlimited power to draw on the 
treasury was also intrusted to him; this indeed was a 
mark of great confidence. 

During the latter part of October, Maury's son 
Richard with his wife and young son came to Mexico 
to assist his father and also to prepare himself to take 
over the work in his absence, for Maury was then plan- 
ning to make a visit to England to meet his wife and his 
four younger children. Mrs. Maury had been unwilling 
to come to Mexico, — indeed to leave Virginia at all ; but 
she at last consented to go to England where the children 
might enjoy better educational advantages. Maury and 
his son worked along energetically on the immigration 
project, but he had already begun to have his doubts as 
to its success. This feeling of uncertainty was caused, 
not by the lack of immigrants but by the unreadiness 



WITH MAXIMILIAN IN MEXICO 197 

of the Mexican government. It was not prepared to 
offer them lands on any terms, and many first-rate men 
from various parts of the South, who had been looking 
for homes, had gone away in disgust. The fundamental 
reason for failure should not, indeed, be laid at Maury's 
feet. But by this time the instability of the Mexican 
throne had begun to betray itself in the slowness of 
action and the lack of decision of the Emperor. 'The 
indecision and weakness of Maximilian", writes Steven- 
son, "prevented his taking full advantage of the oppor- 
tunity then offered to strengthen the empire. The delay 
caused by a vacillating policy discouraged the would-be 
colonists, and before long the flood of immigration was 
checked ".2 

Still some progress contined to be made. On Maury's 
recommendation. General Magruder, formerly of the 
Confederate States army, was placed in charge of the 
land office, under whom was to be a large number of 
surveyors, most of whom were former Confederates. 
Among the other prominent men who had come to Mex- 
ico in the summer of 1865 were: Generals Kirby Smith, 
Shelby, Slaughter, Walker, and Terrell of Texas; Gov- 
ernor Price of Missouri; Ex-Governor Isham G. Harris 
and General Wilcox of Tennessee ; General Hindman of 
Arkansas; Governor Reynolds of Georgia; Judge John 
Perkins, Colonel Denis, and Pierre Soule of Louisiana; 
and Major Mordecai of North Carolina. Across the 
frontier had been brought horses, artillery, and every- 
thing that could be transported. Both large and small 
bands of Confederate soldiers had come over into 
Mexico, and some 2000 citizens had left the United 
States with the intention of colonizing Sonora in North- 

* "Maximilian in Mexico" by Sara Y. Stevenson, p. 174. 



198 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

ern Mexico, though Maury had no connection with this 
undertaking. 

He did, however, send General Price, Judge Perkins, 
and Governor Harris as a commission to examine lands 
near Cordoba in the state of Vera Cruz. They handed 
in a very favorable report, and here a colony, named the 
''Corlotta" in honor of the Empress, was planted. Of 
its prospects Maury wrote enthusiastically: *'In the 
olden times Cordoba was the garden spot of New Spain. 
There stands on one side, and but a little way off, the 
Peak of Orizaba, with its cap of everlasting snow, and 
on the other the sea in full view. These lands are heavily 
in debt to the Church, and as the Church property has 
been confiscated — not by the Emperor, though — Max. 
took possession of these lands for colonization. The 
railway hence to Vera Cruz passes right through them; 
and I am now selling these lands to immigrants, as fast 
as they can be surveyed, at $1.00 the acre on five years' 
credit. There are about forty of our people already 
there. Perkins has bought himself a house and has 
sent for his family ; so has Shelby, and so have a number 
of others. Mr. Holeman of Missouri, an Episcopal 
clergyman, with his family — nice people — has been 
engaged by the settlement as pastor and teacher. I am 
going to reserve land for a church, cemetery, and school- 
house. Thus you see, my sweet wife, colonization is a 
fact, not a chimera. By the time these lands are paid 
for they will be worth, even if no more settlers come to 
the Empire, $20, $30, or even $100 the acre, for they 
produce everything under the sun, and yield perpetual 
harvests". 

Maury's son Richard secured 640 acres of land in this 
colony; and by the first of the year 1866 about thirty 



WITH MAXIMILIAN IN MEXICO 199 

families had been located there. Other colonies had 
been established by that time in Chihuahua by Bryant 
of Arkansas, on Rio Verde in San Luis Potosi by Mitchell 
of Missouri, and in Jalisco by Terrell of Texas. Further- 
more, the last of February, 1866, two ship loads of 
immigrants, who had been refused permission by General 
Sheridan to embark from New Orleans, arrived at 
Vera Cruz by way of Havana. This was the condition 
of immigration when Maury left Mexico for a visit with 
his family in England. 

Tentative permission for such a visit had been granted 
in September of the preceding year, and early in the 
following year Maximilian graciously made good his 
promise in the following letter: "My dear Counselor 
]y[auj.y^_I have the pleasure of answering your kind 
letter of the 22nd of January in which you express your 
just desire to see your family again. If on the one hand 
I behold with regret your absence for some time from 
the Capital where you are so effectively helping us with 
your intelligence; on the other hand, I realize that it is 
quite necessary to fulfill one's most sacred duties toward 
one's family, and in consideration of this I cannot oppose 
your voyage, and my only wish is that you carry it out 
successfully and that you return with your family. 
I hope furthermore on returning from my journey to 
Cuemavaca to see you in Mexico (City) before you 
undertake yours, in order to take leave of you in person. 
Your most affectionate, Maximilian". 

This letter was accompanied by one from the Empress, 

as follows: 

"My dear Sir,— I have spoken to the Emperor re- 
specting our conversation of Friday last, and he wishes 
me to tell you first, that he grants you a complete leave 



200 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

of absence to arrange your affairs in England and allows 
you to set off by the next French packet, but that if he 
returns to Mexico in the meantime, he hopes yet to have 
the pleasure of seeing you; secondly, that he quite 
agrees with your purchasing the instruments for study- 
ing the rainy season ; and thirdly, that he approves of any 
effort you may make to introduce the cinchona tree, and 
authorizes you to have sent from Kew a few specimens of 
this valuable plant. Hoping to have fulfilled my errand 
to your satisfaction, I only want to renew my best wishes 
for your voyage and successful exertions in England, 
whilst I remain. Yours sincerely, Charlotte". 

Here it should be said that, in the matter of cinchona 
cultivation, Maury left a lasting blessing to Mexico. 
Before leaving England in 1865, he had discussed the 
possibility of the introduction of this febrifuge-yielding 
tree into certain mountainous districts of Mexico, with 
Mr. Clements Markham, who had established the cin- 
chona plantations in India and was then in charge of all 
matters relating to them in the India Office. The feasi- 
bility of such an introduction of the plant having been 
agreed to, Maury on his return to England secured three 
packets of seeds from Markham, which were sent to 
Mexico, and from them successful plantations were 
established near Cordoba and in other sections of the 
country. Thus Maury left a living monument to him- 
self in the country of his adoption and short residence. 

Though the letters of both the Emperor and the 
Empress indicate an expectation of Maury's return to 
Mexico, yet in a letter to his wife, written before his 
departure, he leaves the impression that conditions in 
that country might not render this advisable. It was 
also understood by some of his friends in the United 



WITH MAXIMILIAN IN MEXICO 201 

States that he was going to England to assist in the 
laying of a telegraph cable from England to the West 
Indies and Mexico, and his son Richard thought his 
father would not return if the cable succeeded. Though 
Maury did not become connected with this enterprise, 
yet there developed in Mexico very soon after his de- 
parture conditions which made his return inadvisable. 
In fact, events in that unhappy country were fast moving 
toward Maximilian's tragic end ; and Maury was destined 
never to see that country nor its unfortunate rulers 
again. 



CHAPTER XIV 
Reunited with His Family in England 

Maury arrived in England from Mexico, on March 
29, 1866, and was once more united with his wife and 
younger children in London, at No. 30 Harley Street. 
His appearance had been so completely changed by the 
sorrows, hardships, and anxieties of the long years of 
separation that none of his children knew him. Indeed, 
his youngest daughter, on seeing him for the first time 
after his arrival, exclaimed, "This is not my papa! This 
is an old man with a white beard !" 

As soon as Maury had departed from Mexico, those 
who were jealous of him and hostile to the Empire and 
Maximilian brought pressure to bear which resulted in 
the abolishing of the immigration scheme. This was 
made known to Maury through the following letter 
from the Emperor: "My dear M. F. Maury, — Impelled 
by motives of economy and convenience to abolish the 
Imperial Commission of Colonization which in the 
month of September of last year I confided to your 
loyalty and superior knowledge, I must on informing you 
of this measure express the pleasure and satisfaction I 
feel for the exertions you have so successfully made in 
the Empire to augment its population, without which the 
various sources of wealth contained in its fruitful soil 
cannot be made productive. If your talents cannot for 
the present be made available in that way, I am con- 
vinced that they will be eminently useful in the direction 
of the Observatory which situation I formerly conferred 
on you, and in which I trust you will continue, that our 

202 



IVIrs. J. R, Werth of Richmond, Virginia, a daughter of Maury (IVIary 
Herndon Maury in the photograph) has kindly identified the group as 
follows: beginning with the lady standing on reader's left, Eliza Hull Maury, 
daughter; Admiral M. H. Jansen, Netherlands Navy, a warm friend of the 
family; Lucy Minor Maury, daughter; Mary Herndon ]\Iaury, daughter; 
Matthew Fontaine Maury, Junior, son; Mrs. Diana Fontaine Maury Corbin, 
daughter. Commodore Maury is seated holding his granddaughter, Nannie 
Maury Corbin, while l\Irs. INIatthew Fontaine ]\Iaury is seated to reader's 
right. Date of picture, 1868. 



REUNITED WITH HIS FAMILY IN ENGLAND 203 

beautiful firmament examined by your intelligent eye 
may procure us the means of profiting by the knowledge 
which science has already acquired, and of making even 
new discoveries to increase the fame which you have 
already so justly attained. Whenever circumstances 
will permit a new development of colonization, I intend 
making appeal to your advice and activity and I will 
now direct the necessary localities to be prepared in the 
Palace for the Observatory in order to be able to have 
you always near me. Believe me, Your affectionate, 
Maximilian". 

This letter probably occasioned no very great surprise 
to Maury, but he waited several weeks after receiving 
it before he replied, in part, as follows: "I read, in your 
letter of April 19th, fresh proofs of your Majesty's 
confidence and friendly consideration; I am touched by 
them. I am grieved to learn that your Majesty should 
be compassed with difficulties so serious as must be those 
which made it necessary to abandon such a cherished 
policy as I know that of colonization to have been. . . . 
Colonization being suspended, I fear that my return to 
Mexico would tend rather to increase the embarrass- 
ments than to smooth any of the difficulties by which 
your Majesty is surrounded. This fear, my solicitude 
for the welfare of the Empress and yourself, and the deep 
concern I feel for your success in one of the noblest under- 
takings that ever animated the human breast, make me 
pause. ... In stating the conclusion, I hope I may 
not be considered unmindful of obligations or insensible 
to kindness. Far from it. Proof that I recognize both 
in their highest sense is found in the fact that in homage 
to them I forego the high and honorable position so 
kindly offered me near the person of your Majesty in the 



204 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

service of your Empire. . . . That God may ever have 
your Majesties in His holy keeping is the constant 
prayer of your earnest well-wisher and humble friend, 
M. F. Maury". Thus came to an end Maury's attempt 
to found a "New Virginia" in Mexico. 

Having declined Maximilian's invitation to continue 
in his service, Maury began to cast about for some other 
way of earning money to support his family. The first 
thing that suggested itself to his mind was to make use 
of his new discoveries in the electric mine. Though 
the English engineer Holmes had carefully guarded the 
secrets embodied in these new ideas which had been 
intrusted to him by Maury, yet he had done nothing in 
their exploitation and a clear field was thus left for 
Maury to attempt to secure their adoption by the 
various European governments. He accordingly con- 
ceived the idea of opening a sort of school for instructing 
any representatives that foreign countries might send 
to him, for the fee of 500 pounds per country. This 
offer was made by him through a circular, which he sent 
out April 25, 1866 to various diplomats in London, 
recommending three representatives from each country. 
He was almost immediately invited by the French 
government to come to Paris to teach its representatives, 
for which instruction the sum of 25,000 francs was to be 
paid. Maury accepted this offer, and in the course of 
his lectures, given on May 21 and 28, 1866, he demon- 
strated the effectiveness of his electric mines on the River 
Seine at Saint Cloud in the presence of the Emperor 
Napoleon. This visit led to his being invited to become 
a French citizen, and his being offered a position in the 
Meteorological Observatory in Paris. His family was 
not willing for him to accept this position but preferred 



REUNITED WITH HIS FAMILY IN ENGLAND 205 

to return to the United States at the earliest opportunity, 
and he accordingly declined the offer. 

In July, 1866 representatives from Sweden and Nor- 
way, and Holland came to London to be instructed. 
There is some evidence that Russia and England also 
sent representatives at this time. *T have a school 
under weigh", humorously wrote Maury, "with Sweden 
and Norway as pupils — board and tuition 500 pounds. 
They will graduate in 'sea mining' this week. Monday 
the 16th, the school opens for the Dutch at 500 pounds. 
I have heard no more about turning Frenchman. But 
the King of Wurttemberg has been pestering me to keep 
the Prussians out of his pea-patch of a kingdom. 'Barkis 
is willing', but I can't say whether anything will come 
out of it ; I think not as the war looks like it is drawing to 
a close". 

The lectures which Maury gave in connection with 
the demonstrations of his mines gave an introductory 
sketch of all that his predecessors since the time of 
Priestly had done in this field, an account of all that had 
been accomplished by the South with this new weapon 
during the late war, and then in detail the results of his 
own experiments. As far as the submarine mine was 
concerned, he added nothing new to what he had set 
down in the agreement with Holmes which was drawn 
up by him just before leaving England near the close of 
the war. But as to their use on land, the following de- 
tails appear for the first time among his papers: "After 
this hasty sketch, I come to electrical torpedoes for 
guarding mountain passes and roadways, etc., for the 
protection of strongholds and the defense of fortified 
positions. Shells cast for the purpose should be used, 
but in an emergency tin canisters, or any other perfectly 



206 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY ~ 

water-tight cases, will answer. I am not aware that 
electricity was used by either of the belligerents in the 
late American war for springing mines on land. 

"The cases for land-torpedoes should be shells cast 
expressly for the purpose. The thickness of the shell 
being from one-fourth to an inch, and even more, or less, 
according to the size and the probable handling in trans- 
portation. 

'^They should be spherical; only instead of a hole for 
the fuse, as in a hollow shot, they should have a neck 
like a bottle, with a cap to screw over — not in — the neck. 
The case should be charged through the neck, and the 
wires let in through two holes, counter-sunk, diametri- 
cally opposite, the counter-sinking being for the purpose 
of receiving pitch or other resinous matter to keep the 
water out. The fuse, being adjusted to the wires, should 
be held in its place by a string through the neck, while 
the wires are drawn out taut and sealed within and with- 
out. Having proved the fuse, first fill and then drive in 
a wooden peg. Then fill the space between it and the 
screw-cap with red lead, and screw down tight so as to 
make it water-tight. Now' secure the tails of the wires 
so that they will not be chafed or bruised, and the mine 
is ready to be packed for transportation. They are 
generally to be used in stone fougasses, the wire being 
buried at convenient depths, and all marks of fougasses 
and trenches removed as completely as possible. Any 
number, not exceeding twenty-five or thirty, may be ar- 
ranged in a single circuit for the ebonite ; but if the mag- 
netic exploder of Wheatstone be preferred, and the 
ground be perfectly dry, hundreds may be planted in a 
ladder-circuit, which you have seen handled. 

"The operator may be at any distance from these 



REUNITED WITH HIS FAMILY IN ENGLAND 207 

mines when he explodes them, provided only he has 
established some mark or point which, on being reached 
by the enemy, should serve as his signal. The area of 
destruction of one fougasse, properly constructed, with 
a charge of twenty or twenty-five pounds of powder, may 
be assumed to be that of a circle seventy-five or eighty 
yards in diameter. Twenty mines would therefore serve 
for a mile. Several miles may be planted in a night, 
and the assailants may be enticed or invited out in the 
morning. Passes before an invading army may be 
mined in advance, and thus, if he cannot be destroyed, 
his progress may be so retarded by dummies or sham 
mines as almost literally to compel him to dig his way. 

'The power to telegraph through these torpedoes is 
of little consequence, inasmuch as there need be but one 
station and one operator. Using the testing-fuse man- 
ufactured by Abel, and a weak voltaic current, the 
operator can at any time satisfy himself as to continuity. 
Thus bridges and gulfs or breaks are not required for the 
land as they are in sea-mining. Ebonite has the further 
advantage on land that it takes but a single wire. 

'Torts may be protected against assault, and your 
own rifle-pits from occupation by an enemy, simply by 
a proper distribution of those new engines of war. They 
may be planted line within line, and one row above 
another, and so arranged that volcanoes may be sprung 
at will under the feet of assaulting columns. 

"The only attempt that was made in the late American 
war to bring the electrical torpedo into play on the land 
was made by the Confederates at Fort Fisher, in 1865, 
just before its fall. The narrow landspit over which the 
attacking party had to advance was mined. The officer 
in charge used the magneto exploder. But the mines 



208 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

would not go off, owing no doubt to defective arrange- 
ment, for the instrument was new to him, and he had not 
been posted up as to the virtues of the ladder-circuit. 
The instrument used on this occasion was just such a 
one as this before you. It was the first that had reached 
the Confederacy. Here is then a most striking illustra- 
tion of the importance of previous study and drill in 
this new and important arm of defense". 

In addition to Wurttemberg, Maury offered this in- 
struction in electric mining to her enemy Prussia, and 
also to the Governor General of Canada for the sum of 
1000 pounds sterling. These offers were not accepted. 
His experiments had, however, been made known in this 
way to a number of different governments, later infor- 
mation concerning his discoveries leaked out through 
his agent in London to other countries, and finally his 
system became so generally known that his particular 
contributions to the development of this weapon of war- 
fare were lost sight of, and as a consequence Maury has 
not been given the credit that is justly due him in his- 
tories of the electric mine. 

The money which Maury received from these demon- 
strations of mines came at a time when it was greatly 
needed, for he had lost practically all his property in the 
United States through the war and after his last arrival 
in England he had had the further misfortune to lose, 
through the failure of a banker, all he had brought from 
Mexico. At about this time, however, assistance came 
to him from another source. Indeed, before his depar- 
ture from England near the end of the war, a "Maury 
Testimonial" had been begun at the instigation of some 
of his English friends, especially the Reverend Dr. 
Tremlett, and by Commodore Jansen. While Maury 



REUNITED WITH HIS FAMILY IN ENGLAND 209 

was in Mexico, these friends solicited funds for him both 
in England and on the Continent, Tremlett even taking 
the trouble of traveling through Sweden, Denmark, 
and Russia for that purpose. A few months after 
Maury's return to England this sum had reached the 
total of 3000 guineas. Holland contributed 1 100 pounds, 
the Grand Duke Constantine gave privately 1000 pounds, 
and naval officers, scientists, and friends of Maury in 
England and elsewhere on the Continent subscribed the 
remainder. 

The presentation was made at a special dinner given 
in Maury's honor at Willis's Rooms in London on June 
5, 1866. Sir John Pakington, First Lord of the Ad- 
miralty, presided, and there were present the Danish, 
Mexican, and Argentine ministers, six British admirals, 
high officers of the Swedish and Russian navies, General 
Beauregard of the Confederate army. Professor Tyndall, 
and many of Maury's personal friends like John Laird, 
Commodore Jansen, and Dr. Tremlett, who was Hon- 
orary Secretary of the Testimonial Fund. The purse 
containing the 3000 guineas was presented in a handsome 
silver-gilt casket, and was accompanied by the following 
testimonial: *'We the undersigned beg your acceptance 
of the accompanying purse of Three Thousand Guineas 
in appreciation and acknowledgment of the eminent 
and disinterested services which through years of untiring 
zeal in the cause of science you have rendered to the 
maritime nations of the world. Receive from us this 
public testimony of our regard with every wish for your 
future welfare and happiness". ^ 

1 In 1888 Norway, through Rear Admiral Neils Ihlen, Royal Norwegian 
Navy, sent to Maury's children the sum of $2180.74 which had been intended 
to be applied to the Testimonial Fund. 



210 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

In July, 1866, Maury was engaged by Richardson and 
Company, a publishing house of New York City, to 
write a series of geographies for the public schools. It 
was agreed to make the series embrace "First Lessons in 
Geography", "Intermediate Geography", "Manual of 
Geography", "Academic Geography", and "Physical 
Geography". Maury was to be paid $10,000, $1000 
for each volume on the receipt of the manuscript and 
$1000 more for each volume three months after publica- 
tion. He was to receive also $600 for revising each 
book, for five successive years. The following year an 
additional agreement was signed for the publishing of 
"Practical Astronomy for Schools", Maury to receive 
$1500 after the delivery of the manuscript and $1500 
three months after its publication. 

In August, 1866 Maury wrote, "I am hard at work on 
Geography No. I, 'Brave' drawing the maps. Well, I 
could not wind up my career more usefully — and use- 
fulness is both honor and glory — than by helping to 
shape the character and mould the destinies of the rising 
generations". Most of the work on these school books 
was completed before he left England to return to 
Virginia in the summer of 1868, but at that time only the 
first two of the series; namely, "First Lessons in Geogra- 
phy" and "The World We Live In", which was the 
"Intermediate Geography" of the contract, had been 
published. From the very beginning their reception 
in the United States was very flattering, and Maury was 
delighted with his success. 

The first little book contained only sixty-two pages. 
Its preface stated that the pupils were to be taken on 
imaginary voyages and journeys twice around the world 
— once by sea and once by land, and it closed with these 



REUNITED WITH HIS FAMILY IN ENGLAND 211 

very significant words: "The teacher should teach, as 
well as hear recitations' \ The second book had just one 
hundred pages, and was published the same year. These 
two books were later merged into one, which was entitled 
"Elementary Geography", and afterwards called "New 
Elements of Geography". In the preface of the 1922 
edition of the latter is the following tribute to Maury's 
ideas of pedagogy: "Maury refused to follow the plan 
of all accepted textbooks of that day. His plan was to 
present, in simple words and in the form of a story, 
interesting facts about the different peoples of the earth, 
their homes, their industries, and the lands where they 
live; and at the same time to call attention to those 
physical laws which largely determine the condition, the 
character, and the industries of a people. . . . When 
published, these geographies were such a radical de- 
parture from the old methods that many teachers were 
not prepared to accept them; but leading educators 
have gradually come to Maury's position, and to-day the 
principles that he advocated are endorsed by the Com- 
mittee of Fifteen of the National Educational Associa- 
tion". The account of the other books in Maury's 
geographical series, which were not published until after 
his return to Virginia, will be found in the next chapter. 
When Maury left Mexico he had some hope of becom- 
ing connected with the laying of submarine cables in the 
Atlantic. But the only opportunity that presented itself 
was the offer of 1000 pounds for the use of his name in 
connection with the North Atlantic Cable. Maury was 
unwilling to agree to this, and the proposition did not 
materialize. He kept up his interest in such engineering 
work, however, and in July, 1866 he wrote that he had 
filed "provisional specifications" for a patent to improve 



212 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

the manufacture and laying of deep-sea cables, which 
would decrease the cost almost one half. But in the 
final successful laying of the Atlantic Telegraph Cable, 
completed in that very same month, Maury had no part. 
Though Field had been, before the war, quite ready to 
accord him due credit for his assistance in laying the 
first cable across the Atlantic, yet at the banquet given 
him by the New York Chamber of Commerce at the 
Metropolitan Hotel, on November 15, 1866, he only 
casually referred to Maury's name. Two years later at 
a dinner in his honor in Willis's Rooms, London, on 
July 1, 1868, Field did not even mention, in his speech, 
the name of Maury, who that very day sailed at last for 
his home in the United States. 

The success of the Atlantic Cable, however, brought 
Maury another decoration. This was offered by Maxi- 
milian in the following letter: "My dear Counselor 
Maury, — It was with pride that I heard of the scientific 
triumph just achieved, and due to your illustrious labors. 
The Transatlantic Cable, while uniting both hemi- 
spheres, will continually recall to their minds the debt 
of gratitude they owe to your genius. I congratulate 
you with all my heart, and I am pleased at announcing 
to you that I have appointed you Grand Cross of the 
Order of Guadalupe. Receive the assurance of the 
good wishes of your affectionate, Maximilian". Maury, 
not realizing perhaps that Maximilian recognized justly 
his right to share in the honor of the final success of the 
laying of the Atlantic Telegraph, replied modestly, "The 
letters of the 16th and 18th of August with which I am 
honored show how kind and good your Majesty always 
is. They do me much — too much honor, for I had no 
hand in the achievement to which your Majesty so 



REUNITED WITH HIS FAMILY IN ENGLAND 213 

graciously refers. The Telegraphic Cable in which I 
am to take part is not yet ready; when it is, I hope to 
deserve the Imperial 'well done' which is ever ready to 
encourage all good works. For the present, therefore, 
I do not ask for the decoration of Grand Cross of the 
Order of Guadalupe". 

In the same letter, Maury shows that he was not 
unmindful of the trend of events in Mexico, for he 
continued, "Events have vindicated the wisdom of my 
not returning to Mexico. Jealousies within and enmity 
without had already paralyzed my efforts to serve your 
Majesty and Empire. I still see in the efforts of the 
Emperor and Empress of Mexico to give good govern- 
ment with its blessings to that distracted country one of 
the most sublime moral spectacles that is to be found in 
the annals of dynasties. As soon as I discovered that 
I could not assist in the noble work I resolved to stay 
away, for I have not the heart either to hinder or em- 
barrass your Majesty in these great labors. Animated 
by the sentiments which I professed when first we met, 
I have the honor to subscribe myself an humble but true 
friend of your Majesty's. M. F. Maury". 

By the end of June, 1866, matters had come to such a 
pass in Mexico, through the exhaustion of the resources 
of the government, the announced determination of 
Napoleon III to withdraw all French troops from the 
country, and the opposition to Maximilian's regime by 
both republicans and clericals in Mexico as well as by 
the government of the United States, that the throne 
appeared so much in danger that the Empress deter- 
mined, much against Maximilian's wishes, to go to 
France to make personal appeal for assistance from the 
Emperor Napoleon, who had promised Maximilian to 



214 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

support him in Mexico for five years. After failing to 
secure help from the French Emperor who had concluded 
that it was not politic for him longer to support his pro- 
tegees in Mexico, she left the palace of Saint Cloud, 
after exclaiming, "What after all should I, a daughter of 
a Bourbon, have expected from the word of a Bona- 
parte!" Going thence to Pope Pius IX in Rome, she 
was equally unsuccessful in obtaining papal intervention. 
So terrible was the effect of this failure upon the over- 
wrought Empress that she immediately afterwards, 
October 1, lost her reason and became hopelessly insane. ^ 
Maximilian was informed of his wife's condition, and 
made up his mind to abdicate the throne. In this he 
was advised by General Bazaine, through instructions 
from his master, Napoleon himself, who wished Maxi- 
milian to leave with the French troops. But in an evil 
hour he listened to the advice of the clericals and made 
up his mind to remain in Mexico. Events then moved 
rapidly to a tragic climax. The French troops began 
leaving in February, 1867, the last embarking March 12; 
the republican government under Juarez extended its 
power rapidly, and on May 15 at Queretaro Maximilian 
with his Mexican generals Miramon and Mejia were 
betrayed by Colonel Lopez to the Juarists and, after a 
trial by court-martial, were shot on June 19. Of this 

2 The last letter that Maury received from the unfortunate Empress enclosed 
photographs of herself and Maximilian. After becoming insane, she was taken 
to the Chateau de Bouchout in Brabant, Belgium, where she continued to write 
pathetic love letters to her "dearest Maximilian", whom she did not realize to 
have been dead. Death came to her at the age of eighty-six, on January 19, 
1927. During the World War, a heavy guard was placed around her villa by 
order of the Kaiser and this placard set up: "This villa is the property of Her 
Majesty the Empress of Mexico, sister of His Majesty Francis Joseph, Kaiser 
of Austria. Disturbances in the neighborhood will be punished with the 
utmost severity". 



REUNITED WITH HIS FAMILY IN ENGLAND 215 

event Maury wrote, "Poor Max! He died for his honor. 
He and 'my' Carlotta are the marytrs of the age". 

As affecting his own affairs, he afterwards wrote of 
this Mexican tragedy, "But for my good luck in having 
J. D. and Mai. for enemies to send me here into banish- 
ment, and then kind Mexican villains to intrigue me out 
of Mexico, you see the rocks that but for enemies I 
should have split upon". A very few years afterwards 
the mills of the gods ground out their punishment for 
the faithless Emperor Napoleon, and his empire went 
down like a house of cards before the onrush of the 
German armies in 1870. Of Maury's connection with 
Maximilian and Napoleon, his cousin Rutson Maury 
wrote, "It was a special Providence that carried you 
away from Mexico and that prevented your linking your 
fortunes with those of Louis Napoleon". 

Maury's decision to remain in England turned out 
better, in every way, than he had anticipated. Here 
in London in the midst of most pleasant and congenial 
surroundings he lived with his wife, three youngest 
daughters, and son Matthew, Jr., who was then attend- 
ing the London School of Mines. During this peaceful 
life, in 1866, Maury became a regular member of the 
Church, being confirmed with his son and his daughter 
Lucy in Dr. Tremlett's church at Belsize Park, London, 
by Dr. Charles Todd Quintard, Bishop of Tennessee, 
who was then in England to attend the Pan-Anglican 
Assembly at Lambeth and also to raise money for the 
University of the South at Sewanee. 

In 1868, Maury was signally honored by Cambridge 
University which bestowed upon him the degree of LL.D. 
He was accompanied to Cambridge for the ceremonies 
by his wife, his daughters Mary and Lucy, and his 



216 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

friend, the Reverend Dr. Tremlett. Maury thus hu- 
morously referred to the occasion: "So you don't know 
what I mean by the 'coronation', eh? Why boy, I'm a 
Cambridge LL.D. and am going there, I and Max and 
the Queen on the 28th — she to unveil the Prince Consort 
and I to be rigged up in 'died garments from Bozra' in a 
gown and a cap and a beautiful red silk cowl and hear 
myself all done up in Latin!" 

The "Max" whom Maury mentioned in this letter 
was Max Miiller, the famous Sanskrit scholar. Still 
another distinguished savant received the LL.D. on the 
same day; this was William Wright, translator of Egyp- 
tian manuscripts and hieroglyphics at the British 
Museum.^ He wrote afterwards to Maury of the be- 
stowal of the degrees as follows: "I have not been at 
Cambridge lately, but I know that all our friends there 
are well. Max Miiller is now in Germany; I hope to see 
him at Kiel at the end of September, when we shall both 
attend the gathering of the German Orientalists. Lord, 
what a figure we three of us looked, dressed up like 
lobsters, in the midst of that big hall, gazed at by such a 
host of people, 'when shall we three meet again?' Cer- 
tainly never under the like circumstances. I was glad 
to see that Oxford conferred its degree the other day on 
your poet Longfellow". 

During the ceremonies, the Dean made a long oration 
in Latin, which was addressed to the newly-made 

^ It has often been stated that the poet Tennyson received the LL.D. from 
Cambridge at this same time. This is incorrect. A letter of May 12, 1926, 
from the Registrary of Cambridge University states that on May 28, 1868, the 
"Degree of LL.D. honoris causa was conferred upon: Frederick Max Miiller, 
Professor of Comparative Philology, Oxford ; William Wright, Assistant in the 
Department of MSS., British Museum; and Matthew Fontaine Maury of 
Virginia". 



REUNITED WITH HIS FAMILY IN ENGLAND 217 

"learned Doctors". The portion of this which intro- 
duced Maury is as follows: "I present to you Matthew 
Fontaine Maury, who while serving in the American Navy 
did not permit the clear edge of his mind to be dulled, 
or his ardor for study to be dissipated, by the variety of 
his professional labors, or by his continual change of 
place, but who, by the attentive observations of the 
course of the winds, the climate, the currents of the seas 
and oceans, acquired these materials for knowledge, 
which afterwards in leisure, while he presided over the 
Observatory at Washington, he systematized in charts 
and in a book — charts which are now in the hands of all 
seamen, and a book which has carried the fame of its 
author into the most distant countries of the earth. 
Nor is he merely a high authority in nautical science. 
He is also a pattern of noble manners and good morals, 
because in the guidance of his own life he has always 
shown himself a brave and good man. When that cruel 
Civil War in America was imminent, this man did not 
hesitate to leave home and friends, a place of high honor 
and an office singularly adapted to his genius — to throw 
away, in one word, all the goods and gifts of fortune — 
that he might defend and sustain the cause which seemed 
to him the just one. 'The victorious cause pleased the 
gods', and now perhaps, as victorious causes will do, 
it pleases the majority of men, and yet no one can with- 
hold his admiration from the man who, though num- 
bered among the vanquished, held his faith pure and 
unblemished even at the price of poverty and exile". 

Thus did England make amends for its former failure 
to honor Maury before the Civil War when medals and 
decorations were bestowed upon him by so many other 
European governments. While in Cambridge, Maury 



218 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

gave a lecture on "Science and the Bible; Educational 
Ideals of the South" to further the interest in England 
in the financial support of the University of the South 
at Sewanee, Tennessee. In this address he contended for 
religious education in the college, and maintained that 
the Bible and science do not conflict if each is rightly 
interpreted. 

Not long after Maury's return to England, his friends 
began to urge him to return to the United States. There 
was some talk of a professorship in astronomy for him 
at the University of Virginia; and a definite offer of a 
chair in the Virginia Military Institute was made to him 
by the Superintendent as early as February, 1867. A 
little later he was asked to become the vice-chancellor 
of the University of the South, and for several months 
he was favorably inclined toward accepting this position. 
He finally decided, however, in favor of the professorship 
at the Virginia Military Institute at $2000 a year. He 
did not go to Sewanee, he said, because he thought the 
Episcopalians at the North were not disposed to assist 
the institution and the financial arrangements did not 
give the assurance of reasonable grounds for success. 

Maury's letter of acceptance of the Chair of Meteorol- 
ogy in Virginia Military Institute is, in part, as follows: 
"I thank you kindly for your letter of the 3rd inst. 
(April, 1868), explaining my duties in the new Chair. 
They being such as therein defined, you have ihduced me 
to accept. I should lack courage to undertake a regular 
course of lectures as one of the faculty, simply because 
it would lead me into an untried line of life ; and as my 
rule is to put my heart into whatever I attempt to do, and 
try my best, I should have to work overmuch — es- 
pecially at the beginning — and I am afraid of that. The 



REUNITED WITH HIS FAMILY IN ENGLAND 219 

consideration, therefore, that I am not to be charged 
with a class, or expected to deHver a regular course of 
lectures, removes a 'sea of troubles' and leaves me in a 
field of research in which I am not altogether a 'raw 
hand'. . . . You certainly do draw a very bright pic- 
ture of the work that is before me (The Physical Survey 
of Virginia)— of the results that are expected from it, 
and of the success that is to attend my labors. We 
do not weigh in the same balance the force that I can 
bring to the work. Therefore, as bright as your picture 
is, I have my fears of what there may be on the other 
side. 'Still, it's wise and brave to hope the best', and, 
bringing willing hearts and ready hands to the work, 
we'll try to rub even the dark side bright, should it be 
turned towards us". 

Though the General Amnesty was not passed until 
May 22, 1872, and Virginia had not as yet been re- 
stored to normal relations with the Union, her passing 
from Federal military control to home rule taking place 
from April to November, 1869, still the Northern atti- 
tude toward the Confederate leaders had already under- 
gone considerable change, as evidenced by the release 
of Jefferson Davis under bail of $100,000 in May, 1867. 
Maury felt sure, therefore, that he would not be molested 
if he returned to the United States, and accordingly 
after bidding his many warm friends in England fare- 
well, he set sail with his family from Liverpool, on July 
1, 1868, for the home from which he had been absent for 
six years,— years filled with unusual and trying experi- 
ences. 



CHAPTER XV 
His Last Years in Virginia 

Maury arrived at New York on July 16, 1868, and 
was agreeably surprised at his treatment there. "The 
custom house authorities", he wrote, "received me with 
marked consideration and passed all luggage without 
difficulty". Early in August he reached Richmond, 
much pleased with his reception in his native state. "In 
the South", he declared, "it's been a sort of ovation. 
. . . My coming home to share the hard lot of these 
people instead of accepting French honors is looked 
upon as a high display of patriotism". 

After spending a part of the summer at the White 
Sulphur Springs as a guest of the proprietors, he was 
installed, on the 10th of September, in his professorial 
chair at Virginia Military Institute. The ceremonies 
were held in the open air on a temporary platform in 
front of the Superintendent's quarters. The faculty 
of Washington College, of which General Robert E. 
Lee was then the Rector, were present, as well as a large 
number of the citizens of Lexington. Superintendent 
Francis H. Smith welcomed Maury on behalf of the 
Institute, and Governor Letcher, as a representative of 
the Board of Governors of which he was the president, 
also made an address of welcome. Maury gave an 
"extended commentary" on the sciences, as the principal 
speech of the day. On this occasion, according to one of 
his daughters, Maury wore his foreign decorations, and 
"the cadets were mightily pleased and cheered till their 
little throats were dry". 

220 




Courtesy of "The Journal of American History," Vol. IV, Number 3 {1910). 

Portrait Taken during the Last Years of Maury, While at the Virginia 
Military Institute 



HIS LAST YEARS IN VIRGINIA 221 

Maury did not take up his residence in Lexington 
until the following year, on June 10, as his house there 
was not ready for his family until that time. With 
Richmond as his home during the autumn and winter, 
he was busily engaged in lecturing, in making prepara- 
tions for the physical survey of the material and mineral 
resources of Virginia, in distributing cinchona seeds 
which had been sent to him from England, in trying to 
arouse interest in the establishment of an agricultural 
school in connection with the Virginia Military Institute, 
and in working in the interest of the Chesapeake and 
Ohio Railway and the establishment of a direct line of 
steamers from Norfolk to Flushing. The most impor- 
tant address that he delivered during this period was 
given at the Staunton Fair on October 28, 1868. In 
this speech he referred to the opinion which had gotten 
abroad in the North, and even in England, that the 
South had become lacking in energy and enterprise, and 
he advised that they make use of their water power, 
encourage German and Dutch immigrants to come to 
Virginia, and begin to construct better roads. 

When Maury went with his family to Lexington to 
reside, he was greatly pleased with his new home. "Here 
we are", he wrote, "in our new home, busy fixing up; and 
things begin to know their places. So we also begin to 
have a home-feeling. People are very kind, the country 
is beautiful, the views and the scenery lovely, and both 
climate and air such that exercise is enjoyment". In 
these congenial surroundings he set to work with a will 
in the performance of his new duties, special attention 
being given to the making of the physical survey of 
Virginia. The object of this work was twofold; namely, 
to hasten the development of all the state's natural 



222 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

resources, agricultural and mineral, and to remove preju- 
dice against the South so that immigrants would be at- 
tracted to the deserted farms. As in the old days at the 
Observatory, when he was investigating the winds and 
currents, Maury brought into play his power of inspiring 
others with enthusiastic cooperation, and soon reports 
and communications came pouring into his ofhce at the 
Institute from all parts of the state. There was some 
rivalry, in the matter of the survey, between Washing- 
ton College and Virginia Military Institute. Maury 
declared that the College tried to steal his thunder, and 
that he published what was called a "Preliminary 
Report" in order to "knock them on the head". The 
complete survey was unfinished at the time of his death ; 
but a portion of it was published by his son Matthew in 
1878. 

Maury also continued work on his geographical series, 
only the first two books of which had been published 
before he left England. The "Academic Geography" 
of the original plan was abandoned; but in 1871 his 
"Manual of Geography" appeared, and in 1873 his 
"Physical Geography". The first was very favorably 
received. One review dwelt particularly on the author's 
power of making a tedious and dry subject interesting 
and agreeable, commended the illustrations, and de- 
clared that the book would delight any school-room in 
which the teacher is not hopelessly unfit to teach. 
"We are sure", it continued, "that where it is adopted 
the geography lesson will become suddenly and sur- 
prisingly popular". The preface to the edition, which 
was revised by Mytton Maury and re-copyrighted in 
1880 by the University Publishing Company, stated, 
"Among the marked excellences of the early edition was 



HIS LAST YEARS IN VIRGINIA 223 

its presentation of geography in the character of a science 
rather than an assemblage of disconnected facts. 
Land and air and ocean were treated as parts of a grand 
mechanism ; rivers were discussed not simply as 'divisions 
of water' but as having definite 'offices' to perform; 
mountains were not merely masses of a certain altitude, 
but regulators of rainfall. It was also carefully pointed 
out how the geographical position and climate of a 
country determine its industries. Trade was shown to 
be in a special manner under the influence of geographical 
law". 

In a still later revision^ the publishers called attention 
to the fact that Maury's text, wherever possible, was 
retained because it was "so clear, simple, and attractive 
that it has won for the book the uniform favor of the 
teachers using it. The original text makes up so large 
a part of the book that it is essentially Maury's work. 
Maury's Geographies never belonged to the old school, 
but rather to the new. Being devoted to the study of 
physical geography, and father of the science of 'Physical 
Geography of the Sea', he undertook the preparation of 
his book originally with the intention and purpose 'to 
redeem the most delightful of subjects from the bondage 
of dry statistics on the one hand, and on the other, from 
the drudgery of vague, general ideas' ". 

Maury's first book on physical geography was pub- 
lished in London in 1864, while he was in England during 
the Civil War. It bore the title, "Physical Geography 
for Schools and General Readers", and was translated 
into Dutch, French, and Russian. The book is said not 
to have been very popular in England, because it pre- 

^ In 1912 it was revised as "Maury's New Complete Geography" and copy- 
righted by the American Book Company, and is still on the market. 



224 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

supposed an "extent of knowledge among teachers in 
schools that seldom exists". Maury accordingly en- 
tirely rewrote it for his series; as he says in the preface, 
it was begun in England in 1866 and was the joint work 
of him, his wife, and his daughters. This book also was 
revised after Maury's death, and slightly abridged and 
re-arranged, though the charm of the author's style was 
retained. Later, it was revised and largely re-written 
by Frederic William Simonds of the University of 
Texas, for the American Book Company, in 1908, though 
in doing so the attempt was made ''to preserve as far as 
possible the plan of the older work — a plan that has met 
the approval of a generation of teachers — and at the 
same time to modernize the text thoroughly". 

In 1866, Maury began, under an agreement with his 
publisher Richardson, another book, entitled "Practical 
Astronomy for Schools", and this was practically finished 
before he left England. But the work was never pub- 
lished, though it reached the stage of galley proof, in 
which condition it has been preserved among Maury's 
papers. Its failure of publication was probably due to 
financial embarrassment on the part of the University 
Publishing Company, which became the firm name of 
Richardson's company on January 1, 1869. For several 
years this company had a hard struggle and more than 
once was on the verge of bankruptcy. Maury experi- 
enced difficulty in collecting money due him from the 
company, and only the advice of his cousin Rutson kept 
him from resorting to law to force payments. 

But all these financial matters were adjusted eventu- 
ally in an amicable fashion, for the popularity of the 
geographical series brought in a great deal of money to 
all concerned. In 1871, Maury wrote that the geogra- 



HIS LAST YEARS IN VIRGINIA 225 

phies had already been adopted in more than 5000 
schools in the South, with an average of some forty books 
to each school. A little afterwards he declared that the 
series had cleared during the year 1871 upwards of 
$30,000. Finally, on January 1, 1872, he sold all the 
copyrights to Richardson under the following agreement: 
''I have sold you the copyright in this country to all the 
books, five in number, and wall maps, eight in the series, 
and you have paid for them in full. I am to revise and 
by new editions keep the said five books up to the times, 
for five years for $1000 in gold a year, counting from 
January 15, 1870. Two of these annual instalments 
have become due, for each of which I hold your note. 
The eight wall maps in place of the fourth school geogra- 
phy originally contracted for, were to be published in my 
name, but constructed at your expense and under my 
control so as to justify me in claiming their authorship. 
Besides this you have generously volunteered to pay 
me during my life ten per cent upon the copy money 
annually coming to you upon any and all of the books 
and wall maps aforesaid". 

In 1870, Maury was offered the presidency of St. 
John's College at Annapolis, Maryland, at a salary of 
$3000 and quarters for his family; but it was declined. 
He had come to believe that the winters, even of Virginia, 
were too severe for his health, and spent a portion of the 
winter of 1870-1871, with one of his daughters and his 
youngest son, at the home of a sister, Mrs. Halland, at 
Holly Springs, Mississippi and in New Orleans, Mobile, 
and Savannah. 

Early in 1871, he was urged to become the President of 
the University of Alabama at a salary of $3500 and home, 
and with the privilege of selecting his faculty. The 



226 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

proposed salary was raised to $5000, so anxious were the 
board to have him at the head of the institution, and 
Maury finally accepted on July 30, 1871 by telegraph, 
"I will come". But on August 17, he resigned the po- 
sition on the grounds that the arrangements for funds 
for the University were unsatisfactory and not in agree- 
ment with verbal statements made to him. He had 
gone so far as to write out his inaugural address and 
send copies of it to various Southern newspapers, and 
his "Manual of Geography", which was published at 
about this time, bore on its title page the statement that 
he was the President of the University of Alabama. 

It was then that Raphael Semmes, famous commander 
of the Alabama, under the impression that Maury was 
soon to be at the head of the university of his native 
Alabama, wrote a eulogy of his friend, which appeared 
in the Montgomery Advance of September 25, 1871. 
It closed with the following estimate of Maury's achieve- 
ments: "Thou hast revealed to us the secrets of the 
depths of the ocean, traced its currents, discoursed to us 
of its storms and its calms, and taught us which of its 
roads to travel and which to avoid. Every mariner, 
for countless ages to come, as he takes down his charts 
to shape his course across the seas, will think of thee! 
He will think of thee as he casts his lead into the deep 
sea; he will think of thee as he draws a bucket of water 
from it to examine its animalculse ; he will think of thee 
as he sees the storm gathering thick and ominous; he 
will think of thee as he approaches the calm-belts, and 
especially the calm-belts of the equator, with its mys- 
terious cloud rings; he will think of thee as he is scudding 
before the 'brave west winds* of the Southern hemisphere ; 
in short, there is no phenomenon of the sea that will 



HIS LAST YEARS IN VIRGINIA 227 

not recall to him thine image. This is the living monu- 
ment which thou hast constructed for thyself". 

Maury had, by this time, become dissatisfied with his 
situation at Lexington. '*I shall not", he wrote, "risk 
another winter here for two reasons — one on the score 
of health. The other — I have worked out Physical 
Survey as far as it can be worked out without money. 
And I feel that I am not earning my salt. Though the 
Board of Visitors and Faculty are kind enough to express 
quite a different opinion. So after the swallows come I 
shall begin to inquire about lodgings in Fredericksburg 
or Richmond. In all, except the salt-earning feature, 
my situation here is as delightful as man can make it". 
Somewhat later, he declared, 'They are sounding me 
about the University of Tennessee. Remember Ala- 
bama ; I shall look very closely — and not trust to verbal 
statements — before I commit myself again. You know 
I intend to cut out from here at the end of the term any- 
how. My situation here is charming and delightful as 
it can be. And though I may be rendering the state 
service, the state butters me no parsnips. Virginia 
Military Institute does that and though V. M. I. tries 
very kindly to persuade me that it's all the same, I 
can't see it. And so I am quite ready for Tennessee or 
anywhere else that will offer inducements sufficient". 

He, accordingly, handed in his resignation in May to 
take effect the following September; but there were so 
many protests against his action, from the Governor of 
the state all down the line, that he reconsidered the 
matter and agreed, in July, to remain at V. M. I. for the 
time being. After his resignation, he had been ap- 
proached by a member of the Board of Trustees of the 
Agricultural College near Blacksburg, Virginia, who 



228 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

asked permission to propose Maury's name as their 
president, but he decHned the proposal. Inquiry was 
also made of him whether he would accept the presidency 
of a Polytechnic College to be founded at New Orleans. 
This appealed to him, particularly on the score of his 
health, but the project did not materialize. 

In addition to his work on the ''Physical Survey of 
Virginia" and his geographical series, Maury spent con- 
siderable time upon the preparation and delivery of 
lectures and addresses, not in great numbers during his 
first two years at Lexington but with increasing fre- 
quency during the last years of his life. Among the 
notable speeches he made during 1869 were an address 
to the graduating class of V. M. I., July 2, and another 
before the Educational Association of Virginia, on De- 
cember 16. In the former, he emphasized the fact that 
what they accomplished in life would depend largely on 
their own 'resolves', that they had not 'finished' their 
education but merely laid the foundation, that they 
should desire to master the specialty they took up but 
not to become narrow-minded, and that they should 
form the habit of observing nature for there they would 
see God. In closing, he called upon them to live up to 
their traditions. The later address is a plea for the 
giving of more attention in the educational system to the 
study of the physical sciences in view of the progress and 
development of physical discoveries; it began with the 
statement that the study of science should not make 
atheists, if the subject was rightly interpreted. 

Maury often lectured to the students of Virginia Mil- 
itary Institute, though he gave no regular courses of 
instruction; for example, in 1872 he gave a series of 
lectures to the cadets on "What We Owe to Science". 



HIS LAST YEARS IN VIRGINIA 229 

The larger number of his addresses were delivered, how- 
ever, in the interest of the establishment of a system of 
universal telegraphic meterological observations and 
crop reports, — the plan which he had urged for many 
years before the Civil War and which that unhappy 
conflict had cut short. Not long after his return to 
Virginia, he began to consider this cherished plan again. 
"You remember before the war", he wrote, "how hard I 
tried to get up a Telegraphic Meteorological Bureau — ■ 
writing and lecturing about it — now as meteorology for 
the farmers, now as storm-signals combined with crop 
statistics. When I was in England, during the war, I 
proposed to Fitzroy, and after his death to his successor, 
Toynbee, a plan for making, by means of an elastic 
cloth stretched over his map, a caste of the atmosphere, 
so that he might take in his whole field of observation at 
a single glance, and so predict with more certainty. 
Suppose, for instance, with his map pasted on a table, 
he had bored a hole through London, Liverpool, Ports- 
mouth, etc., and stuck up in each place a little rod 
graduated for the barometer; that his elastic cloth was 
then fitted to a slide so that he could set it at the height 
of the barometer at each of the stations. Fancy each 
rod to be surmounted by a wind-vane which could be 
drawn out or shoved in, to show the force of the wind at 
each place. Thus you would have a 'caste of the atmos- 
phere', and see all about it. Brooke — 'deep-sea lead* 
— has suggested just such a plan to Myer (General 
Albert James Myer of the Signal Bureau in Washington) ; 
and Myer, I have heard, has adopted it. The idea, I 
think, was as original with Brooke as it was with me". 

The first address which Maury delivered on the plan 
for land meteorological observations was at the fair of 



230 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

the Memphis Agricultural and Mechanical Society, on 
October 17, 1871. In this speech he said that he had 
dropped the subject at Brussels because the Royal 
Society of London had advised against it, but that he had 
ever since regretted this action because he had learned 
that all Europe had been with him except Bavaria. He 
then showed how the machinery for putting the scheme 
into operation in the United States already existed. 
*'You have your Signal Office", he declared, ''where 
weather reports are continually received by telegraph, 
and whence telegraphic forecasts are issued daily. . . . 
You have also the Agricultural Bureau, in the service 
of which reports embodying many of the facts and ob- 
servations required are already made, or might be 
without any additional expense. . . . Do you mean to 
say that amid all the mind, means, and appliances of the 
age, the relations between the weather and the crops 
are past finding out? If I could, with just such a 
system of researches for the sea, sit down in my office 
and tell the navigator how he would find the wind, at 
any season of the year, in any part of the ocean through 
which he wished to sail, am I promising too much when I 
tell you that by the plan I now propose the relation 
between the weather and the crops is as capable of 
scientific development as were the relations between 
sea-voyages and the winds twenty-five years ago?" 
At the close of the address, resolutions were offered that 
the United States government be petitioned through the 
State Department in favor of the establishment through 
international cooperation of a plan of universal tele- 
graphic meteorological observations and crop reports, 
and that another conference similar to that of Brussels 
in 1853 be called for that purpose. 



HIS LAST YEARS IN VIRGINIA 231 

The different reaction of two of Maury's friends to this 
speech is interesting. Rutson Maury wrote, *'A large 
part of your Memphis Address that deals with mercan- 
tile matters is sheer nonsense. . . . You ought to have 
some Sancho Panza to accompany you when you go 
a-tilting". Being a New Yorker, he would naturally 
not be in sympathy with an effort to deflect even a small 
part of its trade from that metropolis. Dr. Tremlett's 
opinion of the speech was more complimentary. "I 
have", he wrote, ''read your last 'spread eagle' at Mem- 
phis. Capital, clever, business-like like everything you 
do; but unrealizable". 

The address was followed up by the sending of reso- 
lutions to various state governors, and some attempts 
were made to gain the cooperation of officials in Wash- 
ington. In the latter quarter, however, no headway 
was made, as indicated in the following communication 
to Maury from Senator Johnston of Virginia: "I there- 
fore called upon Mr. Watts, the Commissioner of Agri- 
culture, who scarcely had the civility to hear me. He 
made the conversation very short, and said that he 
had just ordered the meteorological reports which his 
predecessor had been collecting and publishing to be 
discontinued. I ventured mildly to suggest that if 
meteorology did not appertain to his Department, at 
least Agriculture did. He gave this a qualified assent, 
but told me very positively that he would have nothing 
to do with the proposed scheme. I met with the same 
rebuff in other quarters and fancied that I saw a pre- 
meditated and arranged plan of resistance. Under 
these circumstances it was manifestly useless to move 
now, and so I have not offered the amendment (to 
provide funds for delegates to the International Agri- 



232 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

cultural Congress) and will not do so at this session. 
I am sorry indeed that a scheme so useful should be so 
treated". 

Maury was undaunted by such rebuffs and continued 
his campaign. On May 29, 1872 he addressed the 
National Agricultural Congress at St. Louis, declaring 
that Europe was ripe for such a scheme and citing the 
names of the following influential supporters of it 
abroad: Alexander Buchan, Secretary of the Scottish 
Meteorological Society ; Commodore Jansen of Holland ; 
Quetelet, Astronomer Royal and Perpetual Secretary of 
the Academy of Sciences of Brussels; Marie Davy, 
Zurcher, and Margolle, meteorologists and savants of 
France; and Father Secchi of the Collegio Romano in 
Italy. The legislatures of Tennessee, Alabama, Missis- 
sippi, Missouri, North Carolina, and Virginia, he de- 
clared, had passed resolutions instructing Congress to 
support an international conference; and he suggested 
that they bring further influence to bear on Congress 
through state agricultural societies, agricultural journals, 
and the general press of the country. He called atten- 
tion to the fact that his interest in the scheme was not a 
private one, since he had no farm, and could not share in 
the honor of helping to organize and carry out the plan 
for the government. He closed with an eloquent plea, 
emphasizing the benefits to be derived, which he esti- 
mated would be as great as those formerly bestowed upon 
commerce by the results of the Brussels Conference. 

On August 13 of the same year he spoke before the 
Agricultural Convention of Georgia at Griffin. Here 
he covered about the same ground that he had in his 
St. Louis speech, and used the same arguments, though 
the language was different and it was not a mere repeti- 



HIS LAST YEARS IN VIRGINIA 233 

tion of the former address. He also, in it, treated the 
question of immigration, saying that the prejudice which 
had arisen abroad against the South must be removed; 
and he once more touched upon the old problem of 
better trade communications for that section. This 
latter question had been in Maury's mind for years, and 
he at this time advanced bold and original ideas as to 
the best means of improving conditions. 

He declared in one of his letters to Dr. Tremlett that 
the seat of empire was fast settling down in the North- 
west States. "They already give the Presidents", he 
wrote, "and will soon dictate the foreign policy of the 
country. They must have a better way to the sea. 
They have been taught to believe — erroneously — that 
the best way lies through Canada and the St. Lawrence. 
It does not ; it lies through Virginia. You will appreciate 
my feeling on this subject, when I remind you that grain 
is sent around Cape Horn from California, and delivered 
at the ports along the Atlantic seaboard at ten cents 
the bushel cheaper than it can now be sent from Iowa 
and other Northwest States ; that the people throughout 
these states — and they are the grain-growing states — 
know that, with a good highway to the Atlantic seaboard, 
the value of their grain would be enhanced ten, twenty, 
even thirty cents the bushel ; and they think that Canada 
and the St. Lawrence can give them such a way. The 
greatest difficulty in teaching these people that their 
best way to the sea lies .through Virginia, not through 
Canada, is to get our people to raise funds for the gra- 
tuitous circulation of the Reports (Preliminary Report 
on the Resources of Virginia) in sufficient numbers be- 
tween this and the next meeting of Congress in De- 
cember. If we can do that, the Northwest States will 



234 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

raise their voices in favor of the Virginia route, and 
demand the money to open it. When that is done, they 
will not want Canada, and we shall have peace. Thus 
you see, my friend, I am aiming high and striking far. 
But with a few heads such as yours to help, we would hit 
the mark as sure as a gun". Not only in his correspond- 
ence, but also in the press as well as in his speeches he 
continued to advocate direct trade between the South 
and Europe through the establishment of a Norfolk to 
Flushing line of steamers, which would turn the tide of 
immigration toward the Southern States. 

On the 18th of September, 1872, Maury spoke to the 
Farmers' Club of Norfolk, Massachusetts, near Boston. 
On this occasion, he made a very tactful speech with 
happy references to his old friend John Quincy Adams, 
and used only the portions of his previous speeches in 
favor of meteorological and agricultural observations, 
that were best adapted to a Northern audience. From 
here he traveled to St. Louis by way of New York, 
Niagara Falls (Buffalo), Detroit, and Chicago. On 
October 9, before the St. Louis Agricultural and Me- 
chanical Association at its annual fair, he spoke as in the 
year previously on the plan of international cooperation, 
using the same arguments but adding that at the recent 
International Congress of Statisticians at St. Petersburg, 
Russia his scheme had been cheered ''by the huzzas of 
Russians, hochs of Germans, vivas of Latin races, and 
the hurrahs of the English", and that a special commit- 
tee had been appointed to further the movement. 

Maury was so exhausted, however, by the time he 
reached St. Louis and was so ill that he could hardly 
read his address in an audible tone. As a matter of 
fact, in the summer preceding this lecture tour he had 



HIS LAST YEARS IN VIRGINIA 235 

been very ill of the gout and was for a time on crutches. 
Consequently, when he reached home after spending 
some two weeks in St. Louis, he was too ill to attend the 
first annual fair of the Seaboard Agricultural Society, 
which he was to have addressed at Norfolk, Virginia, on 
October 23. His address had already been prepared; 
and as it turned out to be his last, its contents are of 
peculiar interest. He appealed to the farmers in regard 
to the necessity of cooperation for self-protection and 
redress against transportation monopolies and all sources 
of oppression and discouragement; he contended that 
domestic commerce should be attended to by Congress 
as carefully as foreign trade, but that special legislation 
protected the latter while the former was left to the 
tender mercies of great corporations; he touched upon 
his favorite topic of weather observations and crop 
reports, and many other questions such as tolls and 
tariffs, the government of railroads, interior water lines 
and canal projects, the conjunction of the Atlantic and 
the Mississippi River valley, east and west trunk lines 
and branches and the ways and means of constructing 
them without increase of taxation, the regulation of 
commerce between the states, the naval establishment 
and wherein it needed reforms, immigration, and labor 
and capital. 

Maury was destined not to live to see the scheme of 
meteorological observations and crop reports, upon 
which he had spent so much thought and labor, in opera- 
tion ; but not long after his death a part of his program 
was carried out when there was an international con- 
ference of meteorologists at Vienna in 1873, the United 
States being represented by General Albert James Myer 
of the Signal Service of the Army. There are, indeed. 



236 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

those who would deny him any part in the establishment 
of the present Weather Bureau. On the contrary, there 
are others who would go to the opposite extreme and 
give him all the credit for bringing it about. For ex- 
ample, Mr. E. P. Dorr, who was at one time an observer 
for the Smithsonian and afterwards President of the 
Board of Lake Underwriters, wrote to Mr. Thompson B. 
Maury, at that time (1873) in the Signal Office, in 
Washington that Maury's "intelligent, original mind 
invented and suggested the present system of meteoro- 
logical observations; and the writer wishes this in some 
way to be put upon record, to do justice to the dead 
Maury, a man whose name and memory will live in all 
civilized countries on the globe, throughout all time, as 
an original, great mind. ... I could not rest unless I 
told some one that the late M. F. Maury was the origi- 
nator in design and detail, in all its parts, of the present 
system of meteorological observations now so generally 
taken all over the country". 

The question of due credit is a perplexing one; but 
certainly no one could cavil at the modest claim made 
by Maury's son Matthew in the following letter: *Tn 
1869, Abb6 took the question up and began issuing local 
forecasts from Cincinnati Observatory and out of his 
success here and efforts in Washington grew the Weather 
Bureau in November, 1870, with General Myer at its 
head, to whom belongs the credit of working up all the 
details and putting the thing on such a practical footing. 
Till now the Washington work is the admiration of all 
the world as its daily charts and reports embrace not 
only the United States but the whole of the northern 
hemisphere, Australia, and the Cape of Good Hope. 
Now I think that any calm mind can only say for Father 



HIS LAST YEARS IN VIRGINIA 237 

that he had the clearness of foresight to foresee what 
could be done for the land with the aid of regular stations 
and the telegraph, but we can't in the smallest degree 
say that its practical success is due to him. In the 
future, General Myer will have that credit. Father's 
reputation must rest on his work at sea and a biography 
can only speak of other things as indications of his clear 
and far-seeing mind. The world is full of similar cases 
in all great improvements, and the world invariably 
gives the credit not to the man who first thought of them 
but to the man who puts the ideas into practise". 

When Maury was stricken with sickness on his last 
lecturing tour, he seemed to realize that he would not 
recover, for when he arrived at home and entered the 
house he said to his wife, "My dear, I am come home to 
die". He was immediately helped to his bed, though 
death did not come until after four long months, during 
a portion of which time he suffered extreme pain. When 
not suffering too much, he occupied himself with a re- 
vision of his "Physical Geography". 

During his long illness, the strength of his Christian 
faith displayed itself, and he became wholly resigned to 
the inevitable. Job had always been his favorite book 
in the Bible; and the 130th Psalm, which he called "De 
Profundis" and which was sung at Luther's funeral amid 
the tears of the people, was read to him, at his request, 
many times during his last days. He was greatly com- 
forted by a week's visit which his brother-in-law. Dr. 
Brodie S. Herndon of Savannah, made him in the De- 
cember preceding his death. And towards the end he 
sent sincere farewell messages to Commodore Jansen in 
Holland, whom he had loved for many years as a brother, 
and also to Dr. Tremlett who had brightened with his 



238 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

friendship the desolate years of his exile in England and 
had influenced him to enter the communion of the 
Church. A few days before his death he dismissed his 
physicians, saying, "Don't come to see me any more; 
leave me to the great Physician". 

He derived his greatest consolation and satisfaction 
from having his family about him, for whom he had 
always shown throughout his life the tenderest affections 
of a devoted father and husband. As he talked to them, 
there would come flashes of his quaint playful humor 
that had always been so characteristic of him; and he 
requested that there be no weeping in his presence. He 
rejoiced in being able to recognize all his family to the 
end. "You see", said he, "how God has answered my 
prayers, for I know you every one. ... I shall retain 
my senses to the last. God has granted me that as a 
token of my acceptance. I have set my house in order, 
my prayers have all been answered, my children are 
gathered round my bed — and now Lord, what wait I 
for?" Then he would repeat the prayer which he had 
composed thirty years before when his leg was broken, 
and which he had repeated in his daily devotions ever 
since: "Lord Jesus, thou Son of God and Redeemer of 
the world, have mercy upon me! Pardon my offenses, 
and teach me the error of my ways ; give me a new heart 
and a right mind. Teach me and all mine to do Thy 
will, and in all things to keep Thy law. Teach me also 
to ask those things necessary for eternal life. Lord, 
pardon me for all my sins, for Thine is the kingdom and 
the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen". 

On the evening before his death, the family sang for 
him verses from his favorite hymn, "Christ Is Risen", 
which he called "Pass over Jordan", and also from "How 



HIS LAST YEARS IN VIRGINIA 239 

Firm a Foundation". After the singing he said so that 
all could hear, "The peace of God which passeth all 
understanding be with you all — all!" Toward the end 
he inquired of his son Richard, "Are my feet growing 
cold? Do I drag my anchors?" Upon receiving an 
affirmative answer, he said, "All's well". About fifteen 
minutes before he died, his wife and daughters were 
requested by him to leave the room, and he was left 
with his two sons and two sons-in-law. At 12.40 P.M., 
on Saturday, February 1, 1873, his life came to a close. 

The body lay in state in the hall of the Library of 
Virginia Military Institute from four o'clock in the 
afternoon of Monday until Wednesday. The gallery 
round the hall was festooned with black, a large anchor 
and a cross of evergreens being placed at alternate 
angles; while the columns were draped spirally. The 
wall was covered with maps constructed under Maury's 
supervision, and on opposite sides of the gallery were 
placed two heavily draped flags, the one being that of 
his native state Virginia, and the other that of his 
adopted state Tennessee. In the center of the hall rested 
the bier, bearing his body, with his breast covered with 
the foreign orders that had been conferred upon him, 
and with a gentle smile on his face. Near the bier stood 
a large globe bearing this appropriate inscription: "The 
whole world is mourning for Maury". 

A funeral service was held in the hall on Wednesday 
about noon, by the Reverend William Pendleton, D. D. 
of Grace Church, after which the coffin, attended by the 
cadet battalion and the faculty of Virginia Military In- 
stitute and the professors and students of Washington 
and Lee University^ and the citizens of Lexington, was 

'This was the name given to Washington College in 1871 after the death 
of General Lee on October 12, 1870. 



240 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

conveyed to the Gilham vault in the city cemetery, just 
opposite the tomb of ''Stonewall" Jackson. This, 
however, was only a temporary resting-place. When, 
shortly before his death, his wife had requested of Maury 
that she be permitted to bury him in Richmond, he had 
replied, "Very well, my dear; then let my body remain 
here until the spring, and when you take me through the 
Goshen Pass you must pluck the rhododendrons and the 
mountain-ivy and lay them upon me". 

"Home, bear me home, at last", he said, 
"And lay me where your dead are lying; 

But not while skies are overspread, 
And mournful wintry winds are sighing ! 

Wait till the royal march of spring 

Carpets the mountain fastness over — 
Till chattering birds are on the wing, 

And buzzing bees are in the clover. 

Wait till the laurel bursts its buds, 

And creeping ivy flings its graces 
About the lichened rocks — and floods 

Of sunshine fill the shady places. 

Then, when the sky, the air, the grass, 

Sweet nature all, is glad and tender — 
Then bear me through the Goshen Pass, 

Amid the hush of May-day splendor".^ 

It was the following autumn, however, before Maury's 
wishes could be carried out. In bearing his remains to 
Richmond at that time, the family were escorted as far 
as the river, about a mile from Lexington, by the corps 
of cadets, the professors of the Institute, and a great 
many other friends who thus wished to show their love 
and respect for the great scientist. Some, among whom 

' The opening stanzas of "Through the Pass" by Margaret J. Preston. 




Courtesy of Governor Byrd and of the Virginia State Chamber oj Commerce. 

Maury IMonument in the Beautiful Goshex Pass, ox the Baxk of the 
North Axxa River, Erected by the State of Virgixia ix 1923 

See page 246 and reverse side of this page 



The bronze tablet on the monument shown on the opposite side of this 
page bears the following inscription: 

MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

Pathfinder, of the Seas 

The Genius who first Snatched 

From Ocean & Atmosphere 

The Secret of their Laws. 

Born January 14th, 1806 *' 
Died at Lexington, Va., February 1st, 1873 
Carried through Goshen Pass To His Final 
Resting Place in Richmond, Virginia. 

Every Mariner 

For Countless Ages 

As he takes his Chart to Shape 

His course across the Seas, 

Will think of thee 

His Inspiration Holy Writ 

Psalms 8 & 107, Verses 8, 23, & 24 

Ecclesiastes Chap. 1, Verse 8 

A Tribute by his Native State 

Virginia 

1923 

His Last Words 

"Carry My Body Through The 

Pass When the Rhododendron 

is in Bloom." 



HIS LAST YEARS IN VIRGINIA 241 

was Superintendent Francis H. Smith of V. M. I., 
accompanied the cortege as far as Goshen Pass. In 
going from Lexington to what was then the nearest 
station on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, one passed 
through this lovely gorge where the North Anna River 
forces its way through the mountains some fifteen miles 
from Lexington. When the cortege reached the Pass, 
the carriages were stopped and members of the family 
gathered branches of the rhododendron and laurel and 
bright yellow maple, and decked the hearse with them, 
as Maury had requested. 

They arrived in Richmond on Saturday, September 
27. The burial in Hollywood Cemetery was private, 
Maury's last resting-place being betw^een the tombs of 
Ex-Presidents Monroe and Tyler, on a beautiful knoll 
overlooking the James River. 'The lot we have in 
Hollywood", wrote Maury's son Matthew, ''I Hke par- 
ticularly because it faces the bright green country and 
overlooks the rapids of the James River, the sleeper 
there being always lulled by the murmur of running 
water, a sound which he so loved to hear". Maury's 
monument in Hollyw^ood Cemetery bears the following 
inscription: In Memory of Matthew Fontaine Maury — 
Born in Spottsylvania Co., Virginia January 14th, 1806 
— Died in Lexington, Virginia February 1st, 1873 — "All 
is well", Maury. On another side of the shaft are these 
words: Entered the Navy of the United States 1825 — 
That of the Confederate States 1861 — Author of 
"Maury's SaiHng Directions" and "The Physical Geog- 
raphy of the Sea". 



CHAPTER XVI 
His Posthumous Reputation 

Immediately after Maury's death there was a veritable 
flood of eulogies of the character and services of the great 
scientist. They were by no means confined to the 
colleges, legislators, and newspapers of Virginia; but the 
scientific journals throughout the world made known in 
unmistakable terms the high estimation in which he 
was held. For example, the British journal Nature of 
March 20, 1873, declared that Maury was the first to 
show how meteorology could be raised to the dignity of a 
science, and that he was essentially a practical man in the 
highest sense of the term. "He will certainly", it added, 
"and deservedly, occupy a niche in the temple of fame 
as a benefactor of humanity and a promoter of scientific 
knowledge, to which not many men ever attain". It 
is difiicult to resist the temptation to quote other extracts 
from the dozens of highly commendatory appraisals of 
Maury's achievements and character, which appeared 
soon after his death. But such is unnecessary, if this 
biography has with a reasonable degree of success given 
an understandable account of his work and revealed 
through the assistance of his letters the sterling character 
of the man. 

After this flood of eulogy had subsided, a period of 
some fifteen years followed during which Maury's name 
was wrapped in comparative forgetfulness. Then, there 
appeared in 1888 the "Life of Maury" by his daughter 
Diana Fontaine Maury Corbin, and the reviews of that 
volume once again brought his name into the literary 

242 



HIS POSTHUMOUS REPUTATION 243 

and scientific journals where the praises of former years 
were repeated. The Athenaeum of July 21, 1888, after 
pointing out how Maury's meteorological work had come 
to be unduly depreciated, declared, 'The work {Physical 
Geography of the Sea) remains one of undoubted genius — • 
great if only for the impulse which it gave to the study of 
this particular branch of physical geography and for the 
enormous advance in the science of meteorology which 
we owe to it". The Saturday Review of October 20, 1888 
said that scientific navigation was almost non-existant 
before Maury's work and that he had improved the 
course of every ship on the sea. It would be tedious 
to quote further from these reviews, and it will be 
sufficient to state that they were unanimous in their 
opinion that Maury deserved high rank among the 
great scientists of the world because of his pioneer work 
in the field of oceanography. 

In this connection, there is a letter which, because of 
the fame of its author as well as the pertinence of its 
contents, is of peculiar interest. Thomas Nelson Page, 
the distinguished Virginia novelist, wrote to Mrs. 
Matthew Fontaine Maury, ^ on the receipt of a copy of 
Mrs. Corbin's biography of her father, as follows: 
"Please accept my thanks for the biography of your 
distinguished husband which will be an addition to our 
library both on account of its literary merit and of the 
information it contains of one of our greatest men. I 
trust you may live to see the services he rendered man- 
kind suitably commemorated by a monument worthy 
of him. But whether you do or not, the time will 
assuredly come when he will be recognized by our people 
as an honor to the race from which he sprang. I esteem 

1 Mrs. Maury survived her husband until the year 1901. 



244 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

it one of my privileges that in my youth I knew person- 
ally two such men as General Lee and your honored 
husband". 

For many years repeated attempts have been made 
to erect such an adequate monument to Maury as the 
one mentioned in Page's letter. Immediately after 
Maury's death, at the suggestion of Rear Admiral Marin 
H. Jansen of Holland, some steps were taken toward the 
building of a lighthouse on the Rocas Banks near the 
coast of Brazil, as a fitting memorial to the great oceanog- 
rapher. But the plan did not succeed, as foreign geo- 
graphic societies wished the movement to originate in 
America, and this country, when approached on the 
matter, was found unsympathetic toward the under- 
taking. The renewed interest in Maury which was 
caused by Mrs. Corbin's biography led to an effort in 
1890 to induce Congress to appropriate $20,000 to erect 
a monument to Maury in Washington ; but this attempt 
was not successful. Then, the Daughters of the Ameri- 
can Revolution began a movement, which lasted for 
about fifteen years, to interest the government in 
building an appropriate monument in the nature of a 
lighthouse upon the Rip-Raps in Hampton Roads, off 
Old Point Comfort, Virginia. A final effort was made 
to have the memorial built and to arrange for its unveil- 
ing during the Jamestown Exposition in 1907; but failure 
again met all endeavors. 

In 1915 it was suggested by the Superintendent of the 
Naval Observatory that a memorial building in Maury's 
honor to accommodate the Hydrographic Ofhce and some 
of the Observatory activities be erected on the Naval 
Observatory grounds, but the suggestion brought no 
tangible results. On May 11 of that year, however, 



HIS POSTHUMOUS REPUTATION 245 

the Matthew Fontaine Maury Association^ was organized 
in Richmond, with three specific objects in mind. The 
first was to have Maury's name placed in the Hall of 
Fame of New York University. In this they have not 
as yet succeeded, but in the election of 1925 Maury's 
name came sixth, with fifty-two out of the one hundred 
votes cast. The two successful candidates, John Paul 
Jones and Edwin Booth, received sixty-eight and eighty- 
five votes respectively; while the other three who were 
ahead of Maury were John Jay with fifty-nine votes, 
Samuel Adams with fifty-eight, and "Stonewall" Jackson 
with fifty-three. The second object of the Maury 
Association was to induce the State Board of Education 
of Virginia to appoint January 14th — Maury's birthday 
— as Maury Day in the schools; this was done June 27, 
1916. Their third and most ambitious undertaking was 
the erection of a bronze statue of Maury in Richmond. 
In this effort slow but steady progress was made. The 
Virginia legislature contributed $10,000, and after the 
close of the World War the United Daughters of the 
Confederacy gave their support to the raising of funds. 
The school children of Virginia gave $2000, and many 
others contributed generously. Accordingly, the sum 
of $60,000 has now been raised, and the monument will 
in the near future be put in place at the intersection of 
Belmont and Monument Avenues in Richmond, where 
the corner stone was laid with appropriate ceremonies 
on June 22, 1922. A tentative model of this monument 
has been made by the sculptor, Mr. F. William Sievers, 
and approved by the committee in charge of the memo- 

* Great praise is due Mrs. E. E. Moffitt for founding this Maury Association, 
and successfully raising the money necessary to build the monument to Maury 
in Richmond. 



246 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

rial. For description of this monument please see foot- 
note, end of chapter, page 251. 

A long list of minor memorials to Maury have ap- 
peared from time to time. One of the oldest is his 
portrait in fresco on the ceiling of the Library of the 
State Capitol of Tennessee in Nashville, which was 
painted in 1857. His name, among six or seven others, 
adorns the exterior of the building of the Seaman's 
Institute, overlooking the Elbe, in Hamburg, Germany; 
while the University of Virginia has his name inscribed 
on the frieze of its new Rotunda. There are a number 
of other memorials in Maury's native state. In Lexing- 
ton at the Virginia Military Institute there is a Maury- 
Brooke Hall in which the physical sciences are taught. 
In Richmond, the house in which he invented the electric 
mine has been marked, and in South Richmond a street, 
a cemetery, and an elementary school all bear his name. 
Norfolk has a Matthew Fontaine Maury High School; 
while Fredericksburg has its Maury Hotel, and has 
marked the house where he resided for several years. 
In Goshen Pass, a tablet in Maury's honor was unveiled 
on June 9, 1923. The bronze tablet is attached to a 
granite shaft about eight feet tall, at the base of which 
is to be placed an anchor, weighing 1500 pounds, and 90 
feet of chain, of a type used in Maury's time and donated 
by the Virginia Pilot Association of Norfolk. This 
memorial, which was designed and constructed by the 
sculptor Guiseppe Moretti, was authorized by the 
Legislature of Virginia. In the state of his adoption, 
there is only one recent memorial, a tablet in his honor, 
placed on the walls of the Public School Building in 
Franklin, Tennessee, by the Old Glory Chapter of the 
Daughters of the American Revolution. 




« ft 



f ;2 



.-•si 



,1 



I ^- 



HIS POSTHUMOUS REPUTATION 247 

In the United States Navy there has been considerable 
recognition of Maury since his death, — particularly in 
recent years. His name is placed at the top of all the 
charts issued by the Hydrographic Office, in the following 
phrase: "Founded upon the researches made and the 
data collected by Lieutenant M. F. Maury, U. S. Navy". 
In 1918 a destroyer in the U. S. Navy was called the 
Maury, and recently the Secretary of the Navy has 
named the Naval Oceanographic Research in his honor. 
At the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, the 
left wing of the Academic Building bears the name of 
Maury Hall. This was originally the navigation wing 
of the building, and, according to the Superintendent of 
the Academy (Captain W. F. Fullam, U. S. Navy, in 
1915), it was named by his direction ''Maury Hall" 
because of "Maury's distinguished and world-wide 
reputation in connection with meteorology and the study 
of ocean currents, etc." In 1919, the United Daughters 
of the Confederacy established a prize at the Naval 
Academy, consisting of a pair of marine binoculars, to 
be known as the "Maury Prize" and to be awarded 
annually to that midshipman of the First Class who has 
shown superior excellence in electrical engineering and 
physics. A portrait of Maury by E. Sophonisba 
Hergesheimer was presented to the Naval Academy by 
the Daughters of the Confederacy, Atlanta Chapter, 
Georgia Division, and unveiled on November 20, 1923.' 

3 Of the numerous portraits of Maury, those deserving special mention are 
in Richmond. There is one by N. H. Busey in the Westmoreland Club of that 
city, another by John A. Elder in the Virginia State Library, and a third of some 
merit in Battle Abbey, Richmond. In the State Library is also a cast of the 
fine bust of Maury made by Edward V. Valentine of Richmond in 1869, which 
is considered by Mrs. Werth to be a very excellent likeness of her father. 
There is a statue of Maury over the main entrance to the Meteorological 



248 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

One of the most recent memorials to Maury is as 
interesting as it is appropriate. On December 22, 1925, 
the Martin Vas Isles (Ilhas da Martin Vas) were visited 
by the Schooner Blossom of the South Atlantic Expedi- 
tion which was sent out by the Cleveland Museum of 
Natural History for the purpose of collecting specimens 
from the volcanic islands of the South Atlantic. These 
islands, individually unnamed and hitherto imperfectly 
charted, lie about eight hundred miles off the coast of 
Brazil in the direction of Africa (latitude 20° 31' S., 
longitude 28° 51' W.). Captain George Finlay Simmons 
of the Blossom and his associates, impressed with the 
importance of the work done by Maury, decided to give 
his name to one of the three islands of the group which 
rises from the ocean like an impressive monument. 

All of these memorials, so varied in their nature and 
so widely distributed, would seem to indicate that 
Maury's name is by no means likely to be forgotten. 
Still, his name and his achievements are not so generally 
known, even in the United States, as they deserve to be. 
"For myself", wrote Julian Street^ a few years ago, "I 
must confess that, until I visited Virginia, I was ignorant 
of the fact that such a person had existed; nor have 
Northern schoolboys, to whom I have spoken of Maury, 
so much as heard his name. Yet there is not one living 
in the United States or in any civilized country, whose 
daily life is not affected through the scientific researches 
and attainments of this man". One is surprised, how- 
ever, sometimes to find foreign authors more familiar 

Station of the German Admiralty in Hamburg, Germany. Recently, the 
M. F. Maury Chapter of the Children of the American Revolution has been 
organized at Franklin, Tennessee by Miss Susie Gentry. 
* In "American Adventures" (1917), pp. 140-145. 



HIS POSTHUMOUS REPUTATION 249 

with Maury's name, and to meet with references to him 
where one might least expect any knowledge of his 
scientific work. For example, in Walter de la Mare's 
"Memoirs of a Midget" (p. 226), the reader is unexpect- 
edly confronted with this: "I searched Mrs. Bowater's 
library for views of the sea, but without much reward. 
So I read over Mr. Bowater's Captain Maury — on the 
winds and monsoons and tide-rips and hurricanes, fresh- 
ened up my Robinson Crusoe, and dreamed of the Angels 
with the Vials". Another example, almost equally 
unexpected is to be found in Vicente Blasco Ibanez's 
"Mare Nostrum" (p. 65). ''He (Ulysses) had learned 
English", writes Ibanez, "the universal language of the 
blue dominions, and was refreshing himself with a study 
of Maury's charts — the sailor's Bible — the patient work 
of an obscure genius who first snatched from ocean and 
atmosphere the secret of their laws". 

In recent scientific works, however, such as "The 
Depths of the Sea" by Sir John Murray and Dr. Johan 
Hjort, "Science of the Sea" edited by G. Herbert Fowler, 
and "Founders of Oceanography" by Sir William A. 
Herdman one is not surprised to find full justification for 
referring to Maury as "The Pathfinder of the Seas", for 
marine meteorology, they declare, may be said to date 
from his time. Not only is this title appropriate in that 
Maury laid out on his charts the best tracks for voyagers 
to follow on the Seven Seas, but it is also fitting in a 
figurative sense for he was indeed a pathfinder in the 
realm of a new science, — the physical geography of the 
sea. This phrase was, therefore, rightly chosen to be 
placed on the memorial tablet in Goshen Pass as well as 
on the one at Franklin, Tennessee, and it is to be promi- 
nently inscribed on the monument soon to be erected to 



250 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

him in Richmond. This beautifully poetic title, "The 
Pathfinder of the Seas", will be his real monument 
against which the tooth of time will gnaw in vain, for it 
will rest solidly based upon his original contributions to 
the science of the world: "The Physical Geography of 
the Sea" and the "Wind and Current Charts" with their 
"Sailing Directions". 

It is not so easy, on the other hand, to describe in a 
phrase Maury's personality. Some of those who knew 
him well thought his most characteristic trait was his 
modesty; others considered "masculine common sense", 
which enabled him to see things in their true light and 
their real bearing, most fully characterized him; while 
still another declared that he belonged to that class of 
men who are sans peur et sans reproche. But his charac- 
ter had too many facets for such a simple characteriza- 
tion, and one is forced to turn to a more detailed 
summary. Perhaps, the most nearly satisfying one of 
this sort is that written by Francis H. Smith, formerly 
Professor of Physics at the University of Virginia and 
one who was well acquainted with Maury and his 
scientific work. 

"Of Maury's personality", Professor Smith wrote, "it 
may be said that no one that had the privilege of meeting 
him ever forgot the event. He had the winning manner 
and kindly address which seemed to belong to the men of 
his race and section. No worthy young fellow ever felt 
ignored or oppressed in his presence. He wore his 
honors easily, but while he valued the public tributes he 
received, he was not fond of displaying the insignia which 
came with them. He would put on those jewels some- 
times in the privacy of home to gratify his children. 
He loved the little ones, and if to be childlike is to be 



HIS POSTHUMOUS REPUTATION 251 

perfect he was charmingly complete. His conversation 
was interesting to the thoughtful in the richness of the 
lessons he drew from common things. He would couple 
facts, regarded by others as unconnected, and thereby 
disclose unsuspected relations. It takes genius to make 
the rejected refuse of one generation the valuable ore of 
a succeeding one. This detection of a hidden meaning 
in the simplest matters shows the inexhaustible nature of 
truth, and is the mark of a superior mind".^ 

Publisher's Note: Permission has been granted to print the following 
portion of Miss Virgiaia Lee Cox's description of the Maury Monument soon 
to be erected in Richmond, Virginia: 

"It is a marvelous conception of the man who was admired as the 'Path- 
finder of the Seas,' and beloved for his humanity. Just how wonderful it is, 
is proved in the words of Commodore Maury's own daughter, Mrs. James 
R. Werth, who, when she saw the finished figure of Mr. Sievers' skill, said: 
'I feel as if I am sitting in the presence of my father in flesh, blood, and spirit; 
I feel as if I could put my arms around his neck as I did when I was a little 
girl.' 

"The sculptor has portrayed Maury in a reminiscent attitude, listening to 
the voice of the storm. It has been said of him that the voice of the wind 
and waves was music to his ears and Mr. Sievers, with fine sympathy and 
originality, built on much study of the man, has succeeded in showing this. 

"Above the figure of Maury, which is seated in a great chair, there is a 
group of figures which supports the globe. The figures represent a storm on 
land and sea. At one corner of the monument is an ox around which cluster 
the windswept figures of the farmer and his household, driven before the fury 
of the storm. 

"At the other corner is an overturned boat and figures of women and 
sailors, drenched in the thundering waves of the sea. The group embraces a 
symbolization of the world and its natural elements. Through the allegoriza- 
tion three of Maury's outstanding achievements are brought well to the fore- 
ground — meteorology, hydrography, and geography. 

"The storm is a meteorological disturbance, and the capsized lifeboat 
with its occupants amid the rolling waves is symbolic of ocean meteorology, 
a branch of hydrography, symbolized also in the "paths of the sea" on the globe, 
that naturally represent geography. 

^ From "Library of Southern Literature", VIII, 3440. 



252 MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY 

"On the plinth of the monument in the flattest relief are figures of fish, 

representing Maury's interest in the paths of the sea. The story goes that ! 

once when Maury was ill he had his son read the Bible to him each night. \ 

One night he read the eighth Psalm, and when he came to the passage — j 

'The fishes of the sea and whatsoever walketh through the paths of the sea' — { 

Maury had him read it over several times. Finally he said, 'If God says there j 

are paths in the sea I am going to find them if I get out of this bed.' Thus the ; 

Psalm was the direct inspiration for his discoveries. ', 

"Mr. Sievers has shown Maury in a reminiscent mood, representing him at \ 

that period of his life when he had achieved his greatest discoveries. In his "< 

right hand are the pencil and the compass, and in his left hand a chart. Against '•. 

his chair is the Bible, from which he drew inspiration for his explorations. \ 

The sculptor has caught amazingly the spirit of the man." — From Richmond \ 

(Va.) Times. ". 



LIST OF LETTERS 

(Quoted in full or in part) 

Maury to (?), March, 1856. 4 

Maury to Sally Fontaine, October 26, 1866 5 

Maury to Frank Minor, October 30, 1859 5 

Maury to Frank Minor, November 5, 1859 5 

Maury to William Hasbrouck, March 13, 1866 9 

Maury to William Hasbrouck, April 14, 1865 9 

Maury to Rutson Maury, August 31, 1840 12 

Maury to N. P. Willis, September 24, 1859 16 

Captain William B. Whiting to Maury's daughter. May 31, 1873 23 

Maury to Ann Maury, February 25, 1872 30 

Maury to Ann Maury, February 15, 1840 33 

Maury to Secretary of Navy Paulding, March 14, 1840 33 

Maury to S. F. B. Morse, February 23, 1854 77 

Cyrus W. Field to Maury, June 20, 1855 79 

Maury to Dr. Kane, October 7, 1856 82 

Maury to Lord Lyons, April, 1861 82 

Maury to Felix Julien, Imperial French Navy, February 21, 1859 102 

Ripley Ropes to George Manning, December 18, 1856 103 

Maury to Secretary of Navy Dobbin, September 20, 1855 108 

Maury to Bishop Otey, September 20, 1855 109 

Secretary of Navy Dobbin to Maury, November 9, 1855 110 

Matthew Calbraith Perry to Maury, November 12, 1855 Ill 

James S. Biddle to Maury, November 15, 1855 112 

Maury to Hasbrouck, April 23, 1858 116 

Secretary of Navy Toucey to Maury, January 29, 1858 117 

Maury to Captain A. H. Foote, March 27, 1855 118 

Maury to John A. Bulles, May 20, 1845 120 

Maury to Frank Minor, December 30, 1859 121 

Maury to Governor Packer, Pennsylvania, January 3, 1860 121 

Maury to Rutson Maury, January 24, 1861 123 

Maury to Hasbrouck, March 4, 18^1 124 

Maury to Frank Minor, February 16, 1861 127 

Maury to Professor L. F. Kamtz, Russia (undated) 130 

Maury to WilUam Blackford, March 12, 1849 131 

Maury to Hasbrouck, November 3, 1852 131 

Maury to Hamilton Lieber, May 30, 1850 132 

Maury to Rear Admiral Fitzroy, England, August, 1861 143 

Maury to Secretary of Navy Welles, April 26, 1861 143 

253 



254 LIST OF LETTERS 

Maury to Frank Minor, June 11, 1861 145 

Hasbrouck to Maury, June 21, 1861 147 

Maury to Frank Minor, July 19, 1861 149 

Maury to Frank Minor, August 11, 1861 150 

Maury to Frank Minor, August 2 and 19, 1861 150 

Maury to Secretary of Navy Mallory, June 19, 1862 151 

Secretary of Navy Mallory to Davidson, June 20, 1862 154 

Maury MS. Lecture on Torpedoes to Dutch Government Representatives, 

July, 1866 154 

Maury to Frank Minor, April 15, 1862 160 

Maury to Frank Minor, June 8, 1862 160 

Maury to Frank Minor, August 19, 1861 161 

Grand Duke Constantine to Maury, July 27, (August 8), 1861 162 

Maury to Grand Duke Constantine, October 29, 1861 165 

Maury to Rutson Maury, September 21, 1863 166 

Maury to Frank Minor, October 24, 1862 168 

Maury to Mrs. M. F. Maury, September 24, 1862 168 

Maury to His Daughter Nannie, April 20, 1863 173 

Maury to His Family, August 29, 1864 178 

Maury to Frank Minor, January 23, 1863 183 

Maury to Brodie Hemdon, April 22, 1863 184 

Thomas Bold to Maury, April 26, 1865 186 

Maury to His Wife, October 15, 1865 187 

Maury's Letter of Surrender, May 25, 1865 , 187 

Mrs. W. A. Maury to Maury, June 19, 1865 188 

Brodie Hemdon to Maury, May 1, 1865 188 

Maury to Tremlett, May 19, 1865 189 

Captain Jansen to Maury, July 22, 1865 190 

General Lee to Maury, September 8, 1865 191 

Maury to His Wife, September 12, 1865 195 

Maury to His Wife, November 27, 1865 198 

Maximilian to Maury, January 29, 1866 199 

Carlotta to Maury, January 29, 1866 199 

MaximiHan to Maury, April 19, 1866 202 

Maury to Maximilian, July 1, 1866 203 

Maury to Rutson Maury, July 8, 1866 205 

Maury to (?), August, 1866. 210 

Maximilian to Maury, August 16, 1866 212 

Maury to Maximilian, October 11, 1866 212 

Maury to Jansen, July 7, 1867 ^ 215 

Maury to Jack (?), July 24, 1867 215 

Rutson Maury to Maury, September 9, 1870 215 

Maury to James Minor, May 10, 1868 216 

William Wright to Maury, August 3, 1869. . 216 



LIST OF LETTERS 255 

Maury to Superintendent Francis H. Smith, V. M. L, April 21, 1868 218 

Maury to Jansen, July 17, 1868 220 

Maury to Tremlett, June 13, 1869 221 

Maury to Tremlett, March 8, 1869 222 

Maury to Tremlett, December 10, 1871 227 

Maury to Tremlett, February 2, 1872 227 

Maury to Rutson Maury, January, 1870 229 

Rutson Maury to Maury, November 11, 1871 231 

Tremlett to Maury, December 11, 1871 231 

Senator Johnston, Virginia, to Maury, April 25, 1872 231 

Maury to Tremlett, June 13, 1869 233 

E. P. Dorr to Thompson B. Maury, February 25, 1873 236 

M. F. Maury, Junior, to His Sister Nannie, October 15, 1883 236 

M. F. Maury, Junior, to Jansen, September 21, 1873 241 

Thomas Nelson Page to Mrs. M. F. Maury, March 28, 1891 243 



INDEX 



Abbe, Cleveland, 236. 

Abel, Frederic Augustus, 207. 

Adams, John Quincy, 128, 234. 

Adams, Samuel, 245. 

Agamemnon, 79. 

Agassiz, Alexander, 128. 

Alabama, 171, 173, 226. 

Albany, 67. 

Allen, John J., 145. 

Amundson, Roald, 82. 

Antarctic, 62. 

Appomattox, 183. 

Arabia, Cunard Steamer, 170. 

Arctic, 79. 

Arctic and Antarctic Exploration, 

81-83. 
Arman, L., 174. 
Ashburton, Lord (Alexander Baring), 

128. 
Atlantic Cable, 76, 77, 104, 212. 
Atrato, Royal Mail Steamer, 183. 

Bache, Professor Alexander D., 80. 

Bacon, Francis, 131. 

Badger, Secretary of Navy, George 

E., 41. 
Bailey, Professor J. W., 76. 
Barron, Commodore James, 133. 
Barron, Captain Samuel, .171. 
Bazaine, General F. A,, 214. 
Beauregard, General Pierre G.-T., 

126, 209. 
Bell, Senator John, 113. 
"Ben Bow" Articles in Richmond 

Enquirer, 155-158, 162. 
Benjamin, Senator Judah P., 114. 
Berryman, Lieutenant O. H., 67, 

76, 79. 



Biddle, E. C. and J., Publishers, 27, 

67, 68. 
Biddle, Commodore James, 52. 
Biddle, Lieutenant James S., 108, 111. 
Bigelow, Abraham, 108. 
Blackburn, the Reverend Doctor, 4, 5. 
Blossom, Schooner, 248. 
Bolivar, Simon, 14. 
Booth, Edwin, 245. 
Bowditch, Nathaniel, 22, 27, 37. 
Brandywine, U. S. Frigate, 9, 10, 12, 

13. 
Brooke, John Mercer, 76, 229, 246. 
Brown, John, 121. 
Brussels Conference, 57, 58, 85, 229, 

230, 232. 
Buchan, Alexander, 232. 
Buchanan, Admiral Franklin, 108, 146 
Buckingham, Duke of, 185. 
Bulloch, James T., 170, 174, 177, 186, 

187, 188. 
Bureau of Coast, Harbor, and River 

Defense, 148. 
Busey, N. H., 247. 
Byrd, Commander Richard Evelyn, 

82. 
Byron, Lord George Gordan, 131. 

Calhoun, John C, 128. 
Cambridge LL.D., 215-217. 
Carlotta, Empress of Mexico, 190, 195, 

197, 199, 200, 203, 213-216. , 
Carpenter, W. B., 75. 
Carter, W. F., 153. 
Champlain, Battle of Lake, 7. 
Charles II, 2. 
Children, Maury's (Pet Namesj, 139, 

141. 



257 



258 



INDEX 



Clayton, Senator J. M., 114. 
Coffin, Professor John H. C, 47. 
CoUingwood, Admiral Cuthbert, 133. 
Colt, Colonel Samuel, 154. 
Columbia University, 64. 
Columbus, 52. 
Congress, 18. 
Consort, 29, 32. 
Constantine, Grand Duke of Russia, 

128, 162, 164, 166, 180, 209. 
Corbin, Mrs. Diana Fontaine 

(Maury), 136, 141, 147, 185, 203, 

242-244. 
Cox, Virginia Lee, 251. 
Coxetter, Captain Louis M., 168. 
Craven, Captain T. T., 172. 
Cuba, 162, 183, 186, 187, 189, 193, 

199. 
Cumberland, 148. 
Cyclops, 78. 

Dahlgren, John A., 128. 

Dante, Alighieri, 131. 

Davidson, Lieutenant Hunter, 153- 

155. 
Davis, Jefferson, 114, 124, 126, 128, 

146, 154, 160, 162, 165, 175, 179, 

189, 215, 219. 
Davy, Marie, 232. 
Dayman, Lieutenant (Royal Navy), 

78. 
Decatur, Stephen, 133. 
Decorations, Degrees, etc., 63-65, 

112, 162, 163, 215-217. 
De Haven, Edward J., 81, 82. 
De la Mare, Walter, 249. 
De Le Marche, Captain, 165. 
Delta, Royal Mail Steamer, 169. 
Dickerson, Secretary of Navy, 

Mahlon, 27, 29, 30, 33. 
Dobbin, Secretary of Navy, J. C, 114. 
Dolphin, 24, 67, 76. 
Dorr, E. P., 236. 



Downes, John, 24. 

Du Pont, Samuel F., 108. 

Edgeworth, Maria, 141. 

Elder, John A., 247. 

Electric Torpedoes (Mines), 148-155, 

178-183, 204-208. 
Elizabeth, 190. 
Engineer, 31. 
Essex, 7, 16. 
Experiment, 31. 

Falmouth, 23, 24, 51. 

Faraday, Professor Michael, 80, 128. 

Farleyvale, 142, 147. 

Farragut, Admiral David Glasgow, 

11, 18, 178. 
Field, Cyrus W., 78, 79, 128, 212. 
Finch (Bolton), William Compton, 

14, 15, 17, 18. 
Fitzroy, Robert, 229. 
Flying Cloud, 60. 
Flying Fish, 61. 
Fontaine, Sally, 141. 
Foote, Andrew H., 108. 
Forbes, R. B., 83. 
Fowler, G. Herbert, 249. 
Francia, Dr. Jose G. R., 120. 
Franklin, Tennessee, 3, 4, 9, 31, 246, 

249. 
Franklin, Sir John, 81. 
Eraser, Trenholm and Company, 170. 
Fredericksburg, 2, 9, 26, 28, 31, 32, 

41, 126, 146, 150, 164, 167, 196, 

227, 246. 
FuUam, W. F., 247. 
Fulton, Robert, 154. 

Gentry, Susie, 248. 

Geography Series, 210-211, 222-225, 

237. 
Georgetown College, 94. 
Georgia, 171, 172. 



INDEX 



259 



Gibraltar, 12. 
Gilliss,JohnP.,44, 45, 81. 
Gladstone, William Ewart, 175. 
Glynn, James, 29, 31. 
Godon, Sylvanus W., 108. 
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 131. 
Goldsborough, Lewis M., 44. 
Goshen Pass, 240, 241, 246, 249. 
Graham, Secretary of Navy, William 

A., 56, 64, 114, 116. 
Gregory, Captain Francis H., 30. 
Gunboats, Construction of, 158-160. 



Houston, Samuel, 7, 128. 
Hubbard, Professor J. S., 47, 48. 
Humboldt, Baron F. H. Alexander 
von, 59, 65, 68, 78, 128. 

Ibanez, Vicente Blasco, 248. 

Immortality, H. M. S., 170. 

"Inca Papers" on the Amazon, 119- 

120. 
Investigator, H. M, S., 82. 
Irving, Washington, 18. 
Irving, Midshipman William, 18. 



Hall of Fame, 245. 

Hamburg, Germany, 246, 247. 

Harlan, Senator James, 87. 

Harper and Brothers, 68, 102. 

Harpeth Academy, 4, 7. 

Harris, Isham G., 198. 

Harrison, Thomas, 127. 

Hasbrouck, William C, 5, 7, 68, 123, 

147. 
Hassler, F. R., 31. 
Hawaii, 17. 

Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 128. 
Haymond, Thomas S., 145. 
Hemans, Felicia D., 132. 
Henry, Professor Joseph, 89. 
Herald, 168, 169. 

Herdman, Sir WilHam A., 75, 249. 
Hergesheimer, E. Sophonisba, 247. 
Hemdon, Ann Hull (See Maury, Mrs. 

M. F.). 
Hemdon, Dr. Brodie, 188, 237. 
Hemdon, Edward, 8. 
Hemdon, Ellen, 59. 
Hemdon, William Lewis, 82, 119. 
Herschel, Sir John, 74, 75. 
Hindman, General Thomas C, 197. 
Hjort, Johan, 249. 
Hollywood Cemetery, 241. 
Hohnes, Nathaniel J., 183, 204, 205. 
Honolulu, 17. 



Jackson, Andrew, 27, 29. 
Jackson, "Stonewall", 240, 245. 
Jansen, Marin H., 128, 138, 181, 189, 
190, 203, 208, 209, 232, 237, 244. 
Japan, 171. 
Jay, John, 245. 
John Gilpin, 61. 

Johnston, Senator John Warfield, 231. 
Jomard, E. F., 74, 128. 
Jones, John Paul, 245. 
Jones, Thomas Ap Catesby , 29, 30, 41. 
Juarez, Benito P., 214. 

Kamehameha III, 17. 
Kane, Dr. Elisha K., 82, 128. 
Kearny, Captain Lawrence, 30. 
Keith, Professor Ruel, 47. 
Kennedy, Secretary of Navy, John 

P., 114. 
Kennon, Beverly, 155. 
Kilby, 62. 

Lafayette, Marquis de, 10-12, 27. 
Laird, John, 171, 209. 
Lalande, Joseph de, 48, 49. 
Land Meteorology, 85-89, 229-237. 
Lee, General Robert Edward, 144, 

146, 183, 187, 188, 191-193, 220, 

239, 244. 
Lee, S. P., 67. 



260 



INDEX 



Letcher, Governor John, 145, 150, 

158, 159, 161, 220, 227. 
Leverrier, W. J. J., 48, 128. 
Lexington, Virginia, 220, 221, 227, 

228, 239-241, 246. 
Lieber, Hamilton, 132. 
Liebig, Justus von, 128. 
Lincoln, Abraham, 123, 125, 126, 

157, 183. 
Locke, John, 46. 
Lomax, Judge John T., 41. 
Longfellow, H. W., 216. 
Lopez, Colonel Miguel, 214. 
Lowell Institute, 103. 
Lynch, William Francis, 81, 82. 

Macdonough, Thomas, 7. 
Macedonian, 13, 29. 
Magruder, General John B., 197. 
Mallory, Stephen R., 113-115, 146, 

150, 160-162, 166, 174, 179, 215. 
Manassas, Battle of, 161. 
Manila, 18. 
Manning, George, 68. 
"Mare Nostrum", 248. 
Margolle, M., 232. 
Markham, Clements, 200. 
Marquesas Islands, 14. 
Maupin (Mauphin?), Dr. Socrates, 

153. 
Maury, U. S. S. Destroyer, 247. 
"Maury Testimonial", 208, 209. 
Maury, Abram, 2, 7. 
Maury, Betty (Mrs. W. A. Maury), 

139, 141, 146. 
Maury, General Dabney H., 67, 90, 

183. 
Maury, Diana Fontaine (See "Corbin, 

Mrs. Diana Fontaine"). 
Maury, Eliza, 141, 203. 
Maury, Ellen, 59. 
Maury, John Herndon, 132, 141, 183, 

184. 



Maury, John Minor, 7, 16, 26. 

Maury, Lucy, 141, 185, 203, 215. 

Maury, Mary (Mrs. James R. Werth), 
126, 141, 203, 215, 247, 251. 

Maury, Mrs. Matthew Fontaine, 9, 
22, 26, 123, 126, 140, 142, 146, 163, 
185, 191, 195, 196, 198, 200, 202, 
203, 215, 237, 239, 243. 

Maury, Matthew Fontaine, his birth, 
2; elementary education, 4-6; 
entrance to the Navy, 7-9; his 
first three cruises, 10-24; his 
"A New Theoretical and Practical 
Treatise on Navigation", 27-28; 
promoted Lieutenant, 29; South Sea 
Exploring Expedition, 29-30; sur- 
veying Southern harbors, 31; in- 
jury to his leg, 32; "Scraps from 
the Lucky Bag", 33-40, 43, 155; 
journalistic work, 41-43; astronom- 
ical work, 44-50; "Wind and Cur- 
rent Charts", 51-63, 83, 144, 249; 
honors, 63-65, 112, 162, 163; 
"Physical Geography of the Sea", 
66-75, 84, 102, 124, 243, 249, 250; 
Atlantic Telegraph Cable, 75-80, 
211-213; interest in Arctic and 
Antarctic exploration, 81-83; ocean 
lanes for steamers, 83; land meteor- 
ology, 85-89, 229-237; transporta- 
tion routes, 90-93; lectures and 
addresses, 93-106; "Retiring 
Board", 107-117, 146; promoted 
Commander, 117; "Inca Papers" on 
the Amazon, 119-120; mediation 
between North and South, 120-125; 
his resignation from the U. S. 
Navy, 126, 127, 143; his character, 
129, 130, 250, 251; ideas about 
education, 131-134, 140, 141; 
Maury and his family, 134-142; 
his appearance, 135; assistance in 
the defense of Virginia, 145-147; 



INDEX 



261 



a Commander in the Virginia State 
Navy and also a Commander in 
the Navy of the Confederacy, 145; 
as Chief of Bureau of Coast, 
Harbor, and River Defense invents 
torpedoes (or mines), 148-155; 
"Ben Bow" articles in the Rich- 
mond Enquirer, 155-158, 162; con- 
struction of gunboats, 158-160; 
invited to Russia, 162-165; invited 
to France, 166, 204, 205; ordered 
to England, 166-170; fitting out 
Georgia and Rappahannock, 171- 
174; as a propagandist for the 
Confederacy, 174-176; inter- 
national political intrigues, 176- 
177; experiments with electric 
mines, 178-183; leaves England, 
183-188; goes to Mexico, 189-192; 
Mexican colonization scheme, 189, 
193-201, 202, 203, 213; in England 
again, 202; his "Torpedo School", 
204-208; ''Maury Testimonial", 
208-209; his Geography Series, 
210-211, 222-225, 237; enters the 
Church, 215; Cambridge Uni- 
versity confers on him the LL.D., 
215-217; his return to the United 
States, 218-220; "Physical Survey 
of Virginia", 219, 221, 222, 227, 
233; Maury at Virginia Military 
Institute, 220-239; last illness and 
death, 237-239; his burial in 
Hollywood Cemetery, 240-241; es- 
thnates of his work, 242-244, 248- 
251 ; monuments and other membri- 
als, 149, 244^248. 

Maury, Matthew Fontaine, Junior 
("Brave"), 141, 167-169, 171, 185, 
186, 203, 215, 222, 236, 241. 

Maury, Mytton, 222. 

Maury, Reuben, 8. 



Maury, Richard (father of Matthew 

Fontaine Maury), 2. 
Maury, Richard (brother to Matthew 

Fontaine Maury), 8. 
Maury, Richard Launcelot, 132, 141, 

147, 167, 187, 196, 198, 201, 210, 

239. 
Maury, Robert H., 149. 
Maury, Rutson, 147, 215, 224, 231. 
Maury, Thompson B., 236. 
Maury, William L., 108, 153, 171, 172. 
Maximilian, Ferdinand, Archduke 

of Austria, and Emperor of Mexico, 

128, 177, 189-191, 193, 195-204, 

212, 213, 215. 
McCauley, Charles S., 108. 
McClure, Commander (Royal Navy) , 

82. 
McGuire, Parson E. C, 26. 
McKay, Donald, 128. 
McRay, Archibald, 81. 
Mejia, General Tomas, 214. 
Merrimac (C. S. S. Virginia), 159. 
Minnesota, 148, 151, 158. 
Minor, Diana, 2. 
Minor, Dudas, 2. 
Minor, John, 146. 
Minor, Robert D., 151. 
Miram6n, General Miguel, 214. 
Missroon, John S., 108, 115. 
Mobile Bay, Battle of, 178. 
Moffitt, Mrs. E. E., 245. 
Mohican, 169, 170. 
Monroe, President James, 241. 
Montague, R. L., 145. 
Monuments and memorials, 149, 

244-248, 250. 
Mordecai, Major Alfred, 197. 
Moretti, Guiseppe, 246. 
Morgan, James Morris, 168, 170. 
Morris, Captain Charles, 10, 18. 
Morris, Dr., 151, 153. 



262 



INDEX 



Morse, Professor S. F. B., 80, 128. 
Miiller, Max, 216. 
Murray, John, 249. 
Myer, General Albert James, 229, 
235-237. 

Nabuco, Joaquim, 120. 

Napoleon I, 18. 

Napoleon III, 65, 166, 174, 175, 177, 
204, 214, 215. 

Nashville, Tennessee, 3, 105, 123, 246. 

Navigation, Maury's *'A New Theo- 
retical and Practical Treatise on 
Navigation", 27, 28. 

Newton, Isaac, 131. 

Niagara, 79, 172. 

Norfolk, Virginia, 7, 13, 29, 31, 41, 
91, 93, 148, 151, 159, 161, 221, 234, 
235, 246. 

Nukahiva, 14-16. 

Ocean Lanes for steamers, B>d). 
Orr, Colonel James L., 165. 
Otey, Bishop James, 4, 96, 128, 

Packer, Governor William F., 121. 

Page, Richard L., 81, 108. 

Page, Thomas Nelson, 243, 244. 

Pakington, Sir John, 209. 

Pasteur, Louis, 165. 

Paulding, Secretary of Navy, James 

K., ZZ. 
Peacock, 30. 
Pendergrast, G. J., 108. 
Pendleton, William (D.D.), 239. 
Perkins, Judge John, 198. 
Perry, Matthew Calbraith, 30, 81, 

108, 109, 111, 128. 
"Physical Geography of the Sea", 

66-75, 84, 102, 124, 243, 249, 250. 
"Physical Survey of Virginia", 219, 

221, 222, 227, 233. 
Pioneer, 229. 



Plato, 131. 

Piatt, Captain Charles T., 67. 

Plutarch, 131. 

Poe, Edgar Allan, 28. 

Poinsett, Secretary of War, Joel R., 

30. 
Polk, Bishop Leonidas, 128, 151. 
Pollard, Edward Albert, 160. 
Poma, Manuela, 24, 25. 
Pope Pius LX, 59, 65, 214. 
Porter, David, 7, 16. 
Potomac, 25, 26. 
Preston, Margaret J., 240. 
Price, Governor Stirling, 198. 
Priestly, Joseph, 205. 
Pynes, the Reverend Doctor, 140. 

Quetelet, Jacques Adolphe Lambert, 

57, 58, 232. 
Quintard, Bishop Charles Todd, 215. 

Rains, General Gabriel J., 155. 

Rappahannock, 172, 173. 

Raven, 60. 

"Retiring Board", 107-117. 

Reynolds, Governor Thomas C, 197. 

Richardson and Company, 210, 224, 

225. 
Richmond, Virginia, 40, 93, 143, 

145, 147-151, 155, 159, 161, 162, 

166, 178, 183, 187, 220, 221, 227, 

240, 241, 245, 246, 250. 
Richmond Medical College, 149. 
Ringgold, Cadwalader, 81. 
Roanoke, 148. 
"Robinson Crusoe", 249. 
Rodgers, John, 12. 
Rodgers, John, Junior, 81. 
Rollins, R., 153. 

Sampson Low, Son and Company, 68. 
Sandwich Islands, 17. 
San Francisco, 62. 



INDEX 



263 



San Jacinto, 170. 

Savannah, 151. 

Scharf's "History of the Confederate 

States Navy", 155. 
Scott, Sir Walter, 132. 
Scott, General Winfield, 110. 
"Scraps from the Lucky Bag", 33-40, 

43, 155. 
Sea Witch, 60. 

Secchi, Father Angelo, 232. 
Senames, Raphael, 226. 
Seneca, 131. 

Shakespeare, William, 132. 
Shelby, General Joseph O., 197, 198. 
Sheridan, General Philip H., 199. 
Shubrick, Captain William B., 30, 

108. 
Sievers, F. WilUam, 245, 251, 252. 
Silliman, Professor Benjamin, 128. 
Simmons, George Finlay, 248. 
Simonds, Frederic William, 224. 
Sims, William Gihnore, 128. 
Slaughter, General James H., 197. 
Slidell, John, 177. 
Smith, Superintendent Francis H., 

145, 220, 241. 
Smith, Professor Francis H., 250. 
Smith, General Kirby, 197. 
Socrates, 126. 
South Sea Exploring Expedition, 29- 

30. 
Soule, Pierre, 197. 
Star of the West, 125. 
Stephens, Alexander H., 124. 
Stevenson, Sara Y., 197. 
Stewart, Chaplain C. S., 15, 17, 48. 
St. John's College, 225. 
Stockton, Commodore Robert F., 124. 
Stoeckle, Baron, 164. 
Strain, Isaac G., 81. 
Street, Julian, 248. 
Stribling, C. K., 108. 



Tahiti, 17. 

Talbot and Son's Iron Works, 149. 

Taney, 67. 

Teaser, 153, 154. 

Terrell, General James B., 197, 199. 

Thomson, C. Wyville, 74, 75. 

Thomson, William (Lord Kelvin), 80. 

Three Bells, 62. 

Toucey, Secretary of Navy, J., 117. 

Toynbee, Captain Henry, 229. 

Trade Wind, 61. 

Tredegar Iron Works, 149. 

Tremlett, the Reverend Doctor F. W., 

176, 185, 189, 208, 209, 216, 231, 

233, 237. 
"Trent Affair", 170. 
Tyler, President John, 40, 128, 241. 
Tyndall, Professor John, 209. 
Typhoon, 60. 

U. S. Naval Academy, 38, 132, 247. 
University of Alabama, 225-227. 
University of North Carolina, 64. 
University of the South, 95, 123, 215, 

218. 
University of Virginia, 94, 132, 153, 

218, 246, 250. 
University Publishing Company, 222. 
Upshur, Secretary of Navy, A. P., 

44, 52. 

Valentine, Edward V., 135, 247. 

Valparaiso, 7, 14, 19, 23, 25, 104. 

Victor, 172. 

Vincennes, 14, 15, 17, 18, 30. 

Virginia, C. S. S., 159. 

Virginia Military Institute, 132, 159, 

218, 220-222, 227, 228, 239, 241, 

246. 

Walker, General John G., 197. 
Walker, Sears Cook, 48. 



264 INDEX 

Walsh, Lieutenant J. C, 67. Wilkes, Charles, 30, 31, 33, 44, 81, 169. 

Washington, George, 12, 44. Willis, Nathaniel Parker, 128, 129. 
Washington and Lee University, 222, "Wind and Current Charts", 51-63, 

239. 83, 144, 249. 
Welles, Secretary of Navy, Gideon, Wordsworth, William, 132. 

143. Wright, William, 216. 

West Point, 37, 38, 131. Wrottesley, Lord John, 59, 68, 128. 

W. H. D. C. Wright, 54. Wurttemberg, King of, 205, 208. 
Wheatstone, Sir Charles, 206. 

White, Editor Thomas W., 41. Yancey, Robert L, 123. 

Whiting, William B., 23, 25, 143. /' ' 

Whitthorne, W. C, 105. Yorktown, Battle of, 11. 

Wilcox, General C. M., 197. 

Wild Pigeon, 61. Zurcher, M., 232.